Posted 7/11/12 (Wed)
By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer
More good news for impact zone counties, cities and schools. North Dakota’s Land Board Energy Infrastructure and Impact Grant Program has been handing out more money to those affected by the oil industry, and McKenzie County and McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 are beneficiaries.
The McKenzie County School District No. 1 received $256,000 for teacher housing, and McKenzie County received $1.2 million for a landfill expansion project and $800,000 to remodel the Law Enforcement Center, which is 80 percent of the county’s original request.
With $41.6 million in grant money available and $333 million in requests, both are fortunate to have received the amount awarded them.
“The school district is immensely appreciative of this grant opportunity,” states Steve Holen, school district superintendent. “The McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 has been researching options regarding employee housing for the past one to two years, but has hesitated to become involved. However, it is a necessary action at this time to recruit and obtain employees as we continue to expand.”
Holen states that school districts are being greatly impacted with rapid student growth in western North Dakota, and employee housing in one of the many challenges being faced. The grant given to McKenzie County School District No. 1 will allow it to pursue employee housing while allocating resources to other areas of need, such as building infrastructure, staffing and student resources.
In order to help offset the impact of oil and gas development to McKenzie County, officials requested $1 million toward the Law Enforcement Center remodeling project and $1.5 million toward a landfill expansion project. According to Linda Svihovec, county auditor, the county received 80 percent of both requests.
McKenzie County Sheriff Ron Rankin states that updating the Law Enforcement Center is a must, and has been for some time, but due to a lack of funding, has not been able to happen until now.
“It is a dispatch hub for McKenzie County,” states Rankin. “All 911 calls come in to the law enforcement center, and various emergency response personnel and other necessary state agencies are called to action in response.”
According to Rankin, the current dispatch radio system is over 22 years old and very unreliable, a shortfall that also compromises the 911 system.
McKenzie County accident reports are up 75 percent, injury accidents are up 56 percent, sex offender registries are up 200 percent and DUI arrests are up 76 percent. That being the case, Rankin cites communication as a necessary component to the successful operation of any law enforcement center, especially one that has dealt with the amount of growth that the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Department has.
The Law Enforcement Center Jail is also inadequate, only having the ability to house nine prisoners at a time. It contains plumbing that is so outdated the parts needed to repair it can no longer be purchased, and has a spotty speaker system, poor video and surveillance and limited office space for additional deputies.
The Law Enforcement Center remodel project looks to offer more jail capacity, new communication systems, video and surveillance, and updated plumbing. Sheriff Rankin is looking forward to the day when better equipment and facilities will improve the safety of his deputies and McKenzie County residents.
The other grant request, according to Svihovec, is a true impact need, and according to Mike Greer, McKenzie County engineer, couldn’t have happened at a better time.
“When opened in 1992, the existing 30-acre landfill had a 50-year capacity,” states Greer. “At the current tonnage intake, the municipal cell constructed this summer has an estimated lifespan of 2.5 years.”
Prior to the boom, McKenzie County took in 18 tons (of waste) per day (TPD), which also allowed it to hold an exempt status with the state.
“Due to the boom, the county is now taking in over 100 TPD, which has forced it to expand and build additional cells ahead of its anticipated schedule and has removed the landfill from an exempt status, making it subject to full Sub-title D compliancy rules with the North Dakota Health Department,” states Greer.
Sub-title D compliant status has additional environmental protections and costs, and is required for any facility that receives more than 20 TPD.
Greer states that the grant will help cover the costs of landfill expansion, but will only get us through the next 2½ years.
The county is already in the process of purchasing 90 acres of land adjacent to the current facility for the new 50-year expansion plan.