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Combined police, fire facility possible in Dickinson

Al Anderson, North Dakota Department of Commerce commissioner, speaks while others look on during a meeting at the Strom Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Dickinson Tuesday morning. Left of Anderson are Francis Ziegler, director of the North Dakota Department of Transportation, Dickinson Mayor Dennis Johnson, Mike Anderson of the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency and Gerry Fisher of the Department of North Dakota Trust Lands.

Dickinson police and fire departments could end up under the same roof, housed in a public safety building, officials said Tuesday during a meeting at the Strom Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

The idea was discussed at the meeting attended by local and state representatives, which was part of a series of meetings to better understand the region's oil impacts, coordinate local and state responses, and to provide updates on state efforts to help meet the region's needs.

Mayor Dennis Johnson said a joint-purpose building would solve space constraints at the existing police department and fire stations. City officials have already begun planning to build a new fire station.

"We do need another fire station on the north side," he said. "There is some discussion in Dickinson right now that maybe the fire station should become a public safety building for Dickinson."

The Dickinson Police Department, Stark County Sheriff's Office and other entities share space at the Law Enforcement Center. They and the fire department have hired staff to keep up with oil-related activity in the area, officials said.

"We're in the process of hiring five new police officers and a dispatcher," City Administrator Shawn Kessel said. "We've not been fully-staffed in our dispatch department for over two years. It's really difficult to maintain employees."

After the meeting, Kessel and Stark County Sheriff Clarence Tuhy said the sheriff's office would likely use the space vacated by the police department.

Kessel also said a new facility would be on the north side of town due to fire department needs, but that a location hasn't been determined. The size and price tag of the building have not been set either, he added.

Dickinson Police Capt. Joe Cianni said depending on where it is, DPD may have substations throughout the city.

"We want to have the most convenient location for the general public," Cianni said.

During the meeting, Kessel said traffic management and the hiring of officers has become more difficult.

"So you're always looking for technology or ways to manage that traffic that

doesn't require such a labor-intensive effort," he said. "One of those, that may be somewhat controversial, is red light cameras. In today's world, in North Dakota, they're illegal because the ticket has to go to the driver, as opposed to the car owner."

Cameras may be helpful if they could be used, Kessel said.

"I'm not saying we would use it, but we may," he added.

Many other oil impacts, such as population and infrastructure, were discussed at the meeting.

Johnson said rules are in place in Dickinson, but worries about waste water from man camps outside city limits.

"I'm not so sure that waste is being properly disposed of," he said.

David Glatt, chief of the environmental health section of the North Dakota Department of Health, said man camps have been a challenge for them.

"The waste water is supposed to be taken care of by licensed septic tank haulers and they have specific regulations on how they're supposed to deal with that," Glatt said.

However, the rules may be reevaluated so there are better records of where it goes, he said.

"Currently the vast majority of the waste is being handled by small cities," Glatt said.