June 30, 2010

City, county move forward with infrastructure study

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

There is no doubt that with the continued development of the region’s oil and gas resources, Watford City and the surrounding area is going to grow.
But where is that growth going to occur and does the city have the infrastructure to handle the new growth?
Those are just two of the questions that the Watford City City Council and the McKenzie County Commissioners are hoping will be answered in a new $100,000 study that is partially being funded by the North Dakota Department of Commerce as a pilot project to help other oil-impacted communities deal with the impacts of new growth.
The study, which is being done by Advanced Engineering, will study the city’s water and sewer capabilities as well as identify areas outside the current city limits that could be annexed into the city and the extraterritorial agreement boundaries.
Funding for the study will come from a $25,000 grant from the North Dakota Department of Commerce with the city and county splitting the remaining $75,000 cost.
As part of the study, Advanced Engineering will be looking at how the city can expand its water and sewer lines as well as lagoon system, if necessary, to accommodate new growth areas.
“We are trying to get our arms around the problems and challenges that we are facing with proposed development around Watford City,” stated Russ Sorenson of Advanced Engineering. “We are identifying annexation areas as well as the extraterritorial boundary area.”
According to Sorenson, the city can establish and enforce zoning ordinances one mile beyond the city limits under an extraterritorial agreement.
And according to Gene Veeder, McKenzie County Job Development director, with the number of development requests that his office is receiving for projects outside the city limits, it is imperative that the city look at annexing areas into the city limits.
“We have developers right now who want to be annexed into the city limits so that they can obtain city sewer services,” stated Veeder. “They are already planning the development of their property and they need to know quickly whether they will be in the city limits. If they are not within the city limits, they need to plan on building a lagoon.”
Annexation, according to Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford, can happen very quickly if a landowner requests it. However, the process can take longer if the city has to go through a hearing and appeal process.
“The city is going to proceed with establishing an extraterritorial agreement as soon as we can,” stated Sanford. “And if we can do annexations, we will.”
While the city and county recognize that Watford City is going to grow, officials want the new study to help direct the direction of that growth and to address potential development issues.
“One of the issues I have from the economic development standpoint is that everyone wants to build south of the city,” stated Veeder. “But from the water and sewer standpoint, unless that area is annexed into the city limits and it is served by city sewer service, development is going to be limited because of the high water table in that area that impacts drain fields. It should be a no-brainer for people wanting to develop south of the city to pay a few hundred dollars in city taxes versus the cost of upgrading their sewer systems.”
Another area of concern that Veeder says will need to be addressed is to look at traffic patterns of highways coming into Watford City.
“Ultimately, the issue with the corner of U.S. Highway 85 and N.D. Highway 23 is going to have to be addressed,” stated Veeder. “It is pretty evident that we have to do something there.”
While the study may not address the highway issue, according to Sorenson, the North Dakota Dept. of Transportation has indicated that it has no plans to change the intersection unless any plans come with local support.
The study, according to Veeder, is expected to done within 60 to 90 days.