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Posted 8/03/11 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

To say that Watford City and the surrounding area is booming would be an understatement. Just a couple of years ago, Watford City’s population was around 1,500 people. Today, the population is estimated at 3,500 and growing.
It is definitely a challenging time for everyone in Watford City as more and more oil field service companies look to put down roots in and around our community, and developers are planning new housing subdivisions on the outskirts of what was once the city limits.
While everyone in Watford City has struggled to meet the challenges of all of this new growth, without a doubt the heaviest burden of trying to meet all of the new challenges of growth has fallen on our city government. After all, it is the city that is responsible for providing water and sewer services into new areas of the city.
But providing basic services such as water and sewer is a Catch-22. The city can’t grow without new subdivisions within the city limits. But developers can’t build homes without water and sewer.
And providing water and sewer services to new areas within the city limits, as well as making upgrades to the city’s lagoon services to handle a projected city population of 5,000 isn’t something that doesn’t come without a pretty hefty price tag.
So where does a city, such as Watford City, which is facing such huge demands for infrastructure improvements, find the money to help the city grow? In the past, cities only had a couple of options. One, they could issue municipal bonds and go into debt for years to build the new water and sewer lines. Or two, cities could create special assessment districts that tack on the costs of the improvements to the new developments.
But thanks to legislation that was passed this past session, oil-impacted communities, like Watford City, can now apply for grant funds to help meet the growing infrastructure needs from the Energy Infrastructure and Impact Office.
And last Thursday, Watford City received a $12.3 million grant from the Board of University and School Lands (Land Board). The grant will allow the city to expand its water and sewer services to the east, south, west and northwest of the city to meet the demands of new development.
What does the $12.3 million in infrastructure improvements mean to the city of Watford City and to its residents?
First, it means that the city will be able to finally grow by being able to annex new property into the city limits. It will grow not only in landmass, but it will grow in population as well.
Second, improving our existing water and sewer lines, as well as making improvements to the existing lagoon system, will not only benefit new developments be they residential or commercial, but it will also improve the service for existing residents.
And third, by expanding the city’s service area for water and sewer, the community will become even more attractive for new development.
The bottom line is that the $12.3 million infrastructure grant will provide the means by which Watford City will grow and better serve everyone.