City sales tax income weighs heavy in Stark Development's request for funding

A body the city of Dickinson helps fund through sales tax dollars got a cool response to its scheduled funding request during Monday's City Commission meeting at City Hall.

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Stark Development Corp. Executive Vice President Gaylon Baker speaks before the Dickinson City Commission on Monday night about his five-year funding request. (Press Photo by Dustin Monke)

A body the city of Dickinson helps fund through sales tax dollars got a cool response to its scheduled funding request during Monday's City Commission meeting at City Hall.

Stark Development Corp. Executive Vice President Gaylon Baker gave a 35-minute presentation on the benefits his organization has had on the area before, during and after the oil boom.

However, Dickinson city commissioners had a tempered response when Baker asked for two more years of continued funding of $750,000 in city sales tax dollars-which is how the city currently helps fund Stark Development-with increases of $50,000 in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Baker's figures, which culminated in a request of $900,000 for 2021, came with the caveat that sales tax income allows the city to do that.

Some commissioners were pessimistic that sales tax dollars-which have fallen 19 percent since last year-would be able to keep up with that funding request and others that come the city's way.

"Where we're sitting at sales tax collections and the economy right now, I think we need to take a look at those numbers," Commissioner Carson Steiner said. "A lot of us here, we don't know what's going to happen yet, and you're asking for a guarantee in 2021 of $900,000."


Baker said he believes Stark Development, which was established following the 1980s oil bust as the Dickinson Development Corp., can help do that as it attempts to bring more business into the area and help keep existing businesses here.

Baker said as oilfield companies leave Dickinson, Stark Development is searching for companies that could replace them.

"I'd love to tell the oil industry we're going to sit around and wait for them to fill those buildings, but no thanks," he said.

Commission President Gene Jackson said he found Stark Development's request not to increase its funding until 2019 "reasonable."

Commissioners agreed to take Baker's request into consideration, and not to take any action until after the reforecasted 2016 city budget is presented at the May 16 regular commission meeting.


Drainage infrastructure issues showcased

Dickinson's city leaders got an in-depth look at how much work would have to be done and how much money would need to be spent to mitigate long-standing problem areas in the city's drainage system.


Brent Erickson, an engineer with HDR Inc. of Bismarck, gave a half-hour presentation to commissioners highlighting a study that identified historic and potential future drainage problems. The study was part of the Dickinson 2035: Roadmap the Future comprehensive plan.

The project identified 20 existing problem areas and six future problem areas, which were based on the city's growth projections. Erickson said the individual projects ranged in cost from $200,000 to $10 million and estimated that if all the existing problems were addressed, it'd cost approximately $32-34 million.

However, he recommended that pipe system upgrades be completed along with street reconstruction because of cost savings.

"The recommended solution is upsizing the storm drain pipe system and adding inlets in construction with street improvements," Erickson said, adding this could be done over the span of decades as funding becomes available.

Problem areas included the downtown pipe system, the Dickinson Drainageway and the East Villard Street pipe system. HDR's models showed the Grasslands Drive development and the Koch Meadow Hills subdivision as possible future drainage issue areas.

"Our staff is going to have to go back and absorb what you've done, try to do some organization ... and bring back some sort of a plan to the city commission," Jackson said. "Obviously we're not going to do all this work in one fell swoop. But the one thing that seems really obvious is, in a situation like this, we better make darn sure we get the upstream work done as ground is developed-as that planning takes place, as the subdividing takes place-and make sure we get that done at a bare minimum."


Public square to get facelift


The public square in downtown Dickinson will be getting a facelift, Dickinson City Administrator Shawn Kessel reported to the commission.

The square, which is located at corner of Villard Street and Sims will have replanted flowerbeds, overgrown trees and shrubbery cleared and Kessel said city workers are going to try and restart the fountain in the petrified rock decoration.

"That's how it was plumbed," Kessel said. "We're going to look into that and see if we can't get it working again."

The commission also approved the purchase of $28,000 in holophane street lighting for downtown and other areas. Replaced light poles from that area will be repurposed along a walking path at the Dickinson Museum Center's Prairie Outpost Park.

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