January 19, 2011

City needs $18 million in infrastructure improvements

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

The growth of a city doesn’t come without significant financial cost.
And with Watford City’s population projected to reach 5,000 people within the next several years, members of the Watford City City Council got their first look at what the city needs to do in the way of improving water and sewer service into new areas of the city to accommodate that growth.
According to a new capital improvements plan that was developed for the city by Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services, Inc., the total cost to bring the city’s core water and sewer systems in line to handle the new residential developments being planned around the city will total over $18 million.
And the city is looking for the State of North Dakota to help fund a significant portion of that much needed infrastructure cost. As part of Gov. Dalrymple’s budget, $100 million of state money is being budgeted to help cities being impacted by oil development meet infrastructure needs. Of the $100 million being proposed, $65 million would be available to small communities like Watford City, Stanley, Tioga, New Town, Parshall and Killdeer.
Obviously, expanding the city’s water and sewer service that was designed and built decades ago to handle the needs of a community of 2,000 people is radically different than what it takes for a community of upwards of 5,000 people.
“Watford City is going to need $5.9 million just to bring our existing water and sewer lines into the northwest part of the city so that it can be developed into new residential areas,” states Brent Sanford, city mayor. “Without these core infrastructure improvements, such as trunk lines for water and sewer and sewer lift stations, the development is going to be hard to achieve, and the city isn’t going to be able to grow the way that we want it to.”
According to Sanford, developers are already working on the Liberty Hills subdivision, which is located to the west of the McKenzie County Courthouse, as well as on land west and north of the city’s existing water tower and north of the Catholic Church.
“There are plans to develop in excess of 300 new homes in these areas,” states Sanford. “And all of these new areas being proposed for development tie into the city’s annexation plans.”
While the city could very well see an $18 million total cost to bring its infrastructure up to standards to handle a population of 5,000 people, Sanford sees the process as actually being one of planned growth.
According to Sanford, the Advanced Engineering study provides the city with the timelines of major improvements that will need to be made based upon the city’s population, and the cost to make those improvements.
If the city does grow to 5,000 people, the study says that $16 million will need to be spent to improve the city’s waste water system, and just under $2 million will be needed to improve the city’s water system. In addition, the study provided a $5.25 million Highway 23 West truck bypass improvement that would be funded by the North Dakota Dept. of Transportation.
“Initially, we are looking at asking the state for $8 million for help with our infrastructure needs,” states Sanford. “We need to be able to provide the service that will handle a population of between 2,000 and 3,000 people comfortably immediately.”
According to David Johnson, former Watford City city engineer and now with Advanced Engineering, the city is only asking the state to help fund the needed core infrastructure improvements.
“The city of Watford City has already made the investments to handle the 30 percent growth that has already occurred,” stated Johnson. “Those investments were paid for by Watford City residents during the previous oil booms.”
And, according to Sanford, if Watford City is going to grow as a community and have more than just temporary workforce housing, the city is going to need the state’s help.
“The improvements that we have planned will allow Watford City to move beyond just providing temporary housing,” states Sanford. “We have to move beyond just being temporary. Making improvements to our water and sewer infrastructure will allow developers to come in and provide an answer to our housing needs.”