Engineering expertise: Former city engineer’s company plays new role in designing Dickinson

Shawn Soehren, a former Dickinson city engineer, started his own civil engineering company in 2012 with an intention to be involved in the design and construction of projects that are good for the community, that add to the betterment of the area...

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(Press Photo by April Baumgarten) Boundary Engineering owner Shawn Soehren stands by the company logo on Sept. 17.

Shawn Soehren, a former Dickinson city engineer, started his own civil engineering company in 2012 with an intention to be involved in the design and construction of projects that are good for the community, that add to the betterment of the area, he said.
“My heart is still with southwest North Dakota,” said Soehren, of Dickinson, who grew up in Reeder. “I want what we do to be positive for the community.”
Soehren’s civil-engineering company, Boundary Engineering - named that because the word is used often in engineering parlance - creates site, street and water-and-sewer designs, and oversees construction, among other services. He said the company is continuing to grow and he expects to add more staff soon.
Currently, in addition to himself, he has on staff a civil engineer and a drafter - and the company works with a local surveying crew for its surveying needs.
He said some of the firm’s recent projects include water-and-sewer design and construction management for the 80-acre Koch Meadow Hills Fifth Addition, a primarily single-family housing development in the works near State Avenue and 40th Street West.
Boundary Engineering also is assisting the Baron’s Vista development, a proposed commercial and residential project that would be located near Exit 59, south of Interstate 94.
“There are some pretty nice projects that we’re working on,” he said.
Soehren said that while growing up as an outdoors-type person, he at one time considered forestry or game-and-fish type careers, but he had uncles who were engineers and ultimately “engineering had the strongest pull for me,” he said.
The 45-year-old said he has always been fascinated with bridges and dams, and has taken side trips on vacations to see some - including the Hoover Dam. Also fascinating to Soehren are double-decker freeways and complicated transitions and interchanges, in urban areas - how engineers and designers are able to make them functional.
Soehren attended North Dakota State University and when he started taking engineering courses, such as transportation and hydrology, the material was interesting and easy for him to grasp, he said. He knew right away this is what he should be doing.
In 1992, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, a time when there were no jobs available in North Dakota or Minnesota.
But on campus, a flyer the Missouri Department of Transportation had posted advertised engineering jobs available there. Eight graduates from his class, including Soehren, ended up moving to Missouri. He said it was a great experience that exposed him to skill sets ranging from design to traffic engineering and maintenance.
He was in Missouri for 11 years, and eventually he was promoted to the position of area engineer for five counties where he was responsible for highway construction and maintenance, including a project to expand a two-lane road into a four-lane highway.
Later, he and his wife wanted to be back home near family while raising their children.
In 2003, Dickinson hired him for the city engineer job. And his wife, Denise, an educator, got a job as a school principal. The couple’s three children are now ages 11, 16 and 20.
“Working at the city was a great experience. I owe (Dickinson) a lot. … It brought me back here,” he said.
Soehren said that in 2003, the city’s growth was starting but still manageable.
Back then, he said, a typical day for the city engineer might include one or two meetings with developers or with someone who needed to meet about a property improvement or sidewalk problem.
By 2012, he was meeting eight to 10 hours a day with groups or individual developers - and the time to do routine engineering work for the city was almost completely lost.
“It went from reasonable growth to getting really inundated,” said Soehren, who oversaw the construction of the West River Community Center and Dickinson State University’s Henry Biesiot Activities Center, initially named the Badlands Activities Center. He said he also supervised various street extensions and improvements, as well as design and construction of a new water treatment plant.
However, Soehren said the workload became almost unmanageable. He decided to leave the city job in 2012 and start his own company.
“So far, it’s been a great choice,” he said.

Grantier is a reporter for The Dickinson Press. Contact her at 701-225-8111.

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