Posted 1/08/20 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
A recently completed survey of Watford City and McKenzie County residents pretty much hit the nail on the head when it comes to the top priorities that Watford City needs to be addressing in 2020. And those top needs identified by residents were bringing more affordable single-family homes to the community, as well as adding more daycare opportunities for working families.
By an overwhelming 61.5 percent, the participants in the electronic survey said the lack of family housing was the biggest obstacle facing Watford City, while 14.8 percent said that more daycare opportunities were needed.
Watford City has seen more than its share of growing pains as the city and county became the epicenter of the Bakken oil development. In the past six years, as the city saw its population grow from around 1,450 to an estimated 7,100 today, Watford City saw a tremendous building of apartment buildings and motels to meet the housing needs. But for a variety of reasons, most notably high land costs and the associated costs of bringing roads, water, sewer and power to new residential areas, the building of single family homes lagged far behind.
The need for more affordable single-family homes in Watford City was also borne out in the latest enrollment projections for McKenzie County Public School District No. 1. That study, which projected student enrollment growing from 1,892 students today to 2,361 students over the next five years, and to an estimated 3,838 students by the start of the 2028-29 school year, is largely predicated on families being able to buy homes.
Likewise, daycare has always been a concern in Watford City. But when thousands of new families started arriving in the community, the need for daycare was addressed by building the Wolf Pup Daycare, the largest daycare facility in North Dakota. Today, that facility, along with the recently opened Wolf Pup Learning Center, now provide daycare and preschool for over 278 children. And they are operating at full capacity with long lists of parents wanting to enroll their children.
Without a doubt, the lack of family housing and daycare are the two biggest obstacles to Watford City’s future growth.
But the good news is that city and county officials recognize that these two concerns need to be addressed in 2020 and beyond. They are working to finalize a program to help incentive the construction of hundreds of new affordable single-family homes, as well as the building of a new large daycare facility.
Let’s hope that 2020 will be the start to seeing Watford City become the city where families can finally say that they are living and working in a place that they can truly call home.