May 19, 2010

With growth comes some growing pains

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

The current oil boom combined with the good economy in North Dakota has given people one more reason to move to McKenzie County. Although it is always better for a city to be growing instead of shrinking, growth doesn’t come without some growing pains.
Some areas like Alexander and Arnegard are seeing few problems. But being larger, Watford City has run into a few growing pains, including no vacancies at motels and RV parks, no rental homes and very few homes for sale.
“It’s great to see the community growing, but we have run into some health hazards at area RV parks,” says Lowell Cutshaw, Watford City city engineer/administrator. “We have some situations where two trailers or skid shacks are sharing one lot.”
When complaints started coming in about the spacing of trailers, inappropriate usage of propane tanks and garbage, Cutshaw decided it was time to call in the North Dakota State Health Inspector for assistance.
“They inspected a couple of the RV parks and are planning to come back and do the rest,” adds Cutshaw. “We want to keep everyone safe, and the Health Department was here looking for health hazards.”
Some things that they found were spacing issues, unsecured propane tanks, fire pits too close to homes and the use of hay bales around trailers, which according to the health inspector, are an open invitation for vermin.
“None of the problems were really serious,” comments Cutshaw. “The biggest issue is where to put the trailers or skid shacks that need to be moved.”
Another growing pain is that all of the open RV spaces in Watford City, including a new development by the Watford City Housing Authority, which hasn’t even opened, are filled.
“When we tell them they have to move, I don’t know where they will go,” states Cutshaw. “But, when the people staying in the parks are calling the city because it is getting too unpleasant to live there, something has to be done.”
In addition to having full RV parks, it is nearly impossible to book a motel room in Watford City as well. No Vacancy signs have been getting a workout at all of the area’s motels, with many families living in the motels while they wait for rental housing to open up.
“We rent out new mailboxes every day,” says Dara Langerud of the  Watford City Post Office. “The increase over the past year has been really large. As of now, we don’t have any space concerns, but if it keeps up like this, we will run out of boxes.”
Like the Watford City Post Office, the Alexander and Arnegard post offices have had substantial increases in box rentals.
“We are up to 133 boxes and we are usually right around 100,” says Joyce Fjelsted, Alexander Post Office. “It’s nice having new people move into town, but we don’t have many boxes left.”
Both Arnegard and Alexander have seen an increase in residents just like Watford City. But for Alexander, there are a few more options.
“We’ve sold several city lots and it’s great to see the motel full,” says Kay Glick, Alexander mayor. “We’ve tried to stay a step ahead, and I think we are doing a good job of handling all of the new families.”
One issue that Alexander has been faced with is the addition of traffic, which has been hard to get used to and hard on the highway.
“The highway is a work in progress,” says Glick. “But we are trying to use that to our advantage.”
Glick is working with the North Dakota Department of Transportation, so the city can replace the water mains that run under the highway at the same time as the NDDOT does construction on the road.
“If we can save some money by doing the water main work while the state has the road torn up, that would be a great asset to our community,” adds Glick. “In the meantime, we hope to keep up with the influx and accommodate everyone interested in our community.”
With any growth comes growing pains. If area cities can work through these difficulties, they are sure to be better off in the end.