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Decker calls 2017 a success for city, sets sights on 2018

It was a year of successes and challenges in Dickinson. Mayor Scott Decker described 2017 as "a very productive year" for the city. Among the year's achievements, the city moved forward on a new behavioral health center. A treatment center is nee...

It was a year of successes and challenges in Dickinson.

Mayor Scott Decker described 2017 as "a very productive year" for the city.

Among the year's achievements, the city moved forward on a new behavioral health center.

A treatment center is needed, Decker said.

"Right now we don't have any kind of treatment in town," he said. "We don't have any mental health. We don't have any addiction. We have some smaller entities in town that handle a small number of cases. The problem is we're shipping a lot of people out of town for treatment. We're trying to rectify that by turning the old hospital into a behavioral health center."

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The city also made progress toward launching a city-wide recycling program.

"It's been a long process but we want to do it right," Decker said. "We want to make sure it's the right thing for the citizens."

A comprehensive recycling program will be good for the city, Decker said.

"There are a lot of citizens who understand that we just can't continue to put, especially waste that can be reused, recycled, into the ground, over and over," he said.

Working with the state Legislature to secure gross production tax funding to benefit the city was another highlight, Decker said.

"It helps us pay our bills," he said. "Without the GPT it would be difficult. We'd be able to pay, but it would be difficult. It's nice to have the (GPT) to help with our budget."

City officials continue to work with legislators to meet challenges that came with the Bakken pipeline economic boom.

"We had a strong session with legislators from all over the state in getting across our message, what we had to build out to help the city accommodate the new arrivals, the workers, to the Bakken boom, which there were many," he said. "We still have those bills from that."

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Paying back the city's debt was made a priority in the budget process.

"We're paying off loans as quickly as we can," Decker said. "Some smaller loans were taken care of this fall."

The city will benefit from having its debt paid, Decker said.

"It will come out to be a good thing for the city," he said. "The boom put some debt on us we didn't have in the past. We want to get out from under that. It will allow us to do a lot of other things, once we do that."

Through 2017, Dickinson enjoyed increased economic growth.

"You can see some more activity. It always helps when the price of oil is up, and today it's over $60," Decker said Friday. "They'll increase their activity if it's more profitable for them."

He added, "I don't think we'll ever see levels like we saw in 2012, 2013 or 2014."

Birth rates also increased in 2017, which, while a blessing, also presents a challenge for the city.

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"We've been working with the school district and planning for the future," Decker said. "It's great we have all these young couples having lots of kids, but we also have to plan for those kids once they get to the elementary schools and eventually high school. We'll have a lot of planning to do in 2018."

In 2017, Dickinson was named the sixth best place to live in the U.S. by Time's Money Magazine.

"Hopefully next year we can move up," Decker said. "That should be our goal, is what brought us to six? Now what can we do to get to five and four and three? Always working on quality-of-life issues and working to make the community better. We're always looking for different projects to improve that."

Initiatives the city will continue to pursue in 2018 include a feasibility study for a potential events center; a possible half-cent sales tax to benefit the police department and fire department; working with the Downtown Association on a new town square, and working with organizations to bring more quality-of-life events to Dickinson, such as Roughrider Days and First on First.

As mayor, it was a good year for Decker personally.

"I got to attend a few different conferences and spend time down at the Legislature, meeting with the senators and representatives from different areas of the state," he said. "We meet every couple of months. All the mayors of the cities in the state get together, those that can, it's usually a pretty good number, and we discuss the issues."

He added, "I think we have a really good working relationship with everybody in the state."

Decker is optimistic the city's many efforts and its challenges can be met.

"We have a great staff," he said. "And we have a great community out here. It is the jewel out here on the prairie, as they say."

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