Posted 1/28/14 (Tue)
By Stephanie Norman
Farmer Staff Writer
The city of Arnegard was awarded a $500,000 Housing Incentive Fund (HIF) just weeks before the end of 2013. This state grant is for the Arrowhead Estates housing development near the Arnegard golf course.
There was only one catch. In order for the city of Arnegard to use the grant, they had to find matching funds from another source within three weeks before the first of the year deadline.
“It was so close to the end of the year and we were a bit worried,” Arnegard Judge Sherry Lervick said. “We needed to get matching funds or we were going to lose the grant.”
That’s where QEP Resources, Inc., comes into play. Gene Veeder, Executive Director of the Watford City Job Development Authority, talked to QEP operators and informed Lervick and Arnegard Mayor Virginia Elliot that the oil company had expressed interest in helping. After making the connection, QEP donated $515,401 to save the HIF grant.
QEP was recognized in December by the North Dakota Industrial Commission for contributing $1 million to HIF grants, helping build housing developments in western North Dakota. More than half of their monies went to Arnegard, by choice, and $484,599 went to the development of housing at Williston State College.
“This is truly a big thing for the city of Arnegard,” Lervick said.
It was just days before Christmas when Arnegard was offered the matching funds, which saved them from losing the HIF grant and not being able to provide more housing.
“There really is a Santa Claus,” Elliot said. “This is a miracle. We cannot express how thankful we are for the QEP donation. They truly saved us.”
Lervick and Elliot bonded with QEP Stakeholder Relations Advisor Lynn Welker and QEP Landman for the High Plains Division Kent Pelton at the annual Watford City Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet held last week at Outlaws’ Bar & Grill.
“QEP is excited to contribute $1 million to support the state’s affordable housing development program,” Welker said. “Growing up in a small town in Nebraska, I know how helpful something like this can be for a community such as Arnegard.”
During the Chamber banquet, QEP was recognized for their extensive efforts to better local projects. As a leading independent natural gas and crude oil exploration and production company in the country, QEP focuses not only on their operation, but leaving a positive footprint on the towns and cities they are working in.
Welker has been a member of the Watford City Chamber Board since 2012.
“QEP feels that it is extremely important to give back to the community and provide resources to assist with off-setting impacts,” Welker said. “It’s who we are as a company. You can’t successfully be a public relations person without actually getting to know the local community.”
Along with aiding local clean-up efforts, QEP made a donation to the McKenzie County Food Pantry Backpack program, which provides snacks for kids who may not have food at home. They also provided gifts at Christmastime to 163 children and some staff members for the Three Affiliated Tribes.
“QEP is an oil production company,” Pelton said. “So they get it, in a sense that they want to be a part of the community. They want to help build, get involved in local activities, and have an active role in the community. I am proud to say that I am part of this company.”
Big Mountain Homes is in charge of the Arrowhead Estates development. Bernie Biegler is the man heading up the project. Together, Biegler, one of his fellow employees, Rob Williams, Elliot, and Arnegard Chief of Police Mike Murphy wrote the grant.
“Funding of this magnitude is usually awarded to projects in bigger cities,” Biegler said. “Arnegard is one of the smallest cities to receive funding. And the fact that they have received the funding is going to be good for the city and the surrounding area.”
The new development will provide 16 three-bedroom, two-bathroom homes, with eight of those homes assigned to essential service personnel such as city employees, social workers, teachers and law enforcement. It is scheduled for completion early this summer.
The Arnegard Booster Club currently has 10 representatives, and each individual has an assigned duty. In the past, the club was active, but has recently been revamped to assess the local current and future needs. Receiving the HIF grant and building these new homes is just the beginning of what the Booster Club has planned for Arnegard.
“As the city is expanding, we are reorganizing the Booster Club,” Elliot said. “We want Arnegard to be a more welcoming community. When we get sewer and water lines under control, we will look into more housing.”
Right now, each building and home in Arnegard has its own individual water well. More housing equals more people, which means water and sewer lines are priorities.
“We are starting to run Arnegard as a business because we have to meet infrastructure needs,” Lervick said. “None of us expected this much growth, but it’s here and we have to deal with it. We want to see investors and growth, but we want to control the direction it goes and keep the small town atmosphere. Our goal is to get a recreational center built this summer and bring back the Arnegard ‘Spuds.’ Bring back the heritage.”
Years ago when the Arnegard school was still up and running, the school’s sporting teams were known as the Arnegard Spuds because the town was well-known for its potato crops. That’s where ‘Spuds’ came from. It’s a piece of their history and heritage that has been lost and the Booster Club wants to rebirth it.
The board also has plans for a multi-purpose city hall building up their sleeve. Lervick said the city has outgrown their current building.
A schematic building design has been made, which includes offices for the judge, police, auditor, city vehicle shop, fire department, first responders and an 11,000-square foot room with tables and chairs that can be utilized as the court room or rented out to the public.
“We want this to be a community project,” Lervick said. “We will start by looking for grants because our goal is to avoid a tax burden. The city council will make the call on the location with all of the city services under one roof.”
This is not the end of Arnegard’s expansion. This Booster Club is determined to be proactive instead of reactive. The oil industry is here, and they want to work with it instead of against it.