Housing board promotes growth

BOWMAN -- For Bowman County Housing Authority Chairman Les Snavely, the housing shortage for Bowman is a good problem. The housing authority includes Bowman City Council member Snavely, Rhame resident Cheryl DeMorrett, Scranton Mayor Virgil Hendr...

BOWMAN -- For Bowman County Housing Authority Chairman Les Snavely, the housing shortage for Bowman is a good problem.

The housing authority includes Bowman City Council member Snavely, Rhame resident Cheryl DeMorrett, Scranton Mayor Virgil Hendrickson, Bowman County Economic Development board member Jack Stebbins and Bowman resident Anita McLaughlin.

"Forming the housing authority board gives us a tool to work with and to get financing and invest interest in bonds and whatever else needed," Hendrickson said.

The authority was formed in the last year after more and more of the community voiced concern of a housing shortage in the Bowman County area, Snavely said.

"There's a variety of people moving in and most are oil related," Snavely said. "The community seems to be growing and the energy is driving the growth. Our real estate people also have discussed the community growth and housing issues."


Opinions aside, the newly formed group decided hard facts and figures were needed to properly address the problem. Hanna Keelan Associates, P.C. of Lincoln, Neb., was hired to formally survey and talk with community focus groups that included business leaders, the elderly and others, on what they want to see happen, what they expect to be available and how it can get done.

The Nebraska business was one of five bidding to do the survey, which costs approximately $18,000. The cost is being shared by the city of Bowman and the Bowman County Commission, Snavely said.

"This housing plan will give us the numbers needed to finance development," he said. "We should have the results of the survey by the first of the year, which will be in time for the next construction cycle."

The last time housing development shifted into full gear was during the early 1980s, he added.

"There was expensive development on the west and east side of Bowman, but when the oil went away it all stopped. Since then, there have been a couple houses built here and there," Snavely said. "I think with this survey and housing plan, we can prove there is a definite need now. We've been assured the oil production will last for at least 30 years, so we're also planning down the road."

The housing needed now is not all low-income housing, he added.

"There are very few low-income needs here," Snavely said. "Bowman has almost no unemployment and contractors and builders are desperate for workers. It's hard to hire a plumber though, when there's no place for them to live."

Bowman is not alone in its housing shortage. As Scranton's mayor, Hendrickson knows what housing needs are for his city and what needs to be done.


"We're hurting for housing and we need rentals," Hendrickson said.

The city has developed 11 lots with water and sewer lines already installed, he added.

"The low-income housing is so everyone can live in a place (they can afford)," Hendrickson said. "We need townhouses and condos. We have people retiring at Scranton Equity with younger people replacing them in need of housing, and I'm sure other areas are up against the same things."

Snavely said he has talked to the Killdeer, Williston and Watford City councils and others about their similar problems.

"It's a southwest North Dakota situation, but the flavor of the community is positive and the city and county commissions are progressive," Snavely said.

The housing authority board members have met with the Bowman County Commissioners about future endeavors.

"We've had three different meetings with them about purchasing property to build apartments, and some of the land to do that would adjoin county property, so we need to work on that with them in order to get contractors lined up for next spring," Snavely said.

Bowman County Commissioner Pine Abrahamson sees family housing as one of the biggest needs for Bowman. He recognizes the need for the board and looking at housing issues.


"The county commission hasn't gone into how it will support the housing authority yet because we're waiting on the costs for different projects the board is still looking at," Abrahamson said. "A survey has been done and we're waiting on those results."

Land must be acquired from the private sector to get sewer and water lined up, he added.

"We know everything down here is full," Abrahamson said of housing. "We know we need to expand, but which direction that will go in and how to do it is still being looked at."

Steps in the right direction have already started in the Bowman area. The city has a new assisted living facility, the Sunset Village Center, for elderly in the community. Snavely said the facility was filled before it was built and there is a waiting list for people to live there.

"They're looking at building another unit like it," Snavely said. "That was the biggest demand and many retired people in the community were interested in a place like it. This facility was the first cycle of development."

Hendrickson is a retired coal miner who once worked at the Knife River Coal Mine, but now has a farm operation with wife Cordell and hopes to address the needs of an aging population.

"Scranton is a senior citizen town and it needs a place for many of the older folks to go, which would also free up their houses for others who need it," he added.

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