Williston leaders proceeding with projects to ready the city and infrastructure for the next oil boom
City leaders in Williston, North Dakota, know it might take some time before another oil boom strikes their city. Despite it being slow in the Bakken, that isn’t slowing down projects in Williston as it builds for the future.
“Our plan is to be able to service a growing population, because we know that it will continue to grow,” says Deanette Piesik, a Williston city commissioner. “The city’s looking at its comprehensive plan and will build the infrastructure within what we already have in our city limits.”
Williston went through its entire six-year oil boom period without having a city administrator or city manager. Now Williston is considering hiring one to help make the future vision of the city a reality.
Williston Mayor Howard Klug would like to have a person in place for day-to-day administration, which would then allow the city commission to focus more on setting policies.
The last six years, the city has spent millions of dollars on consultants trying to deal with planning and zoning issues, code enforcement and signing regulations and other things that larger cities already have in place. In 2014, the city hired AE2S to help map the future of Williston for the next five to eight years.
PROJECTS FOR THE FUTURE
AE2S recommended that the city move forward with a $1 billion infrastructure investment, which includes one-quarter allocated to relocating and renovating Sloulin Field International Airport. Klug noted a large portion of the $1 billion has already been spent or earmarked for projects.
“As a city, we’re really focusing on completing some of the projects that we’ve started, like our water resource and recovery facility,” Piesik says. “We’ve been in the process of building a new, state-of-the-art facility; when it’s done, we’ll be able to handle a very large capacity.”
The $105 million plant is expected to be online in early 2017.
Another important project the city is tackling is the aforementioned airport. From about 2009-2014, the Williston airport could barely handle all the traffic in and out. A $256 million project, which is to be finished in 2018, will be a huge upgrade for the area. The Federal Aviation Administration has already approved the project, which was a major hurdle.
In 2015, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple approved $1.1 billion in “surge” spending money that was distributed to oil-impacted cities and counties in the western part of the state.
Williston received about $80 million to bring up critical, major infrastructure needs. The city is repairing and replacing old sewer and water main lines and making sure it places large enough pipes to accommodate the fast-growing city. “We’re extending sewer lines and waterlines still to our new high school area,” Klug says. “We’re doing a lot of things with the transportation system in Williston.”
Williston is planning on an east reliever truck route to be completed around the perimeter of the city to reduce traffic through the city. The mayor adds Williston is still looking at $20-25 million in road projects in the near future.
“As we work on road projects, we make sure that we’re developing industrial areas to provide the needed parks to service the oil and gas industry,” Piesik says. “Industry has been very good about helping out with roads and other items as the city grows. There is a great partnership with the industry and the city.”
After a mad rush to secure housing for everyone during the boom, the city is finally caught up. However, Piesik believes there’s a need in a certain area.
“We have plenty of apartments, plenty of hotels. It’s time for us to start focusing on single-family housing again,” Piesik says. “A lot of people do want to move with their families or want to move out of apartments into houses.”
Mayor Klug says once Williston completes its big projects in the next two years, the city will be in good shape. Now, only time will tell if another boom will strike the city in the meantime. This time around, the Williston city leaders are making sure they are proactive, not reactive.
“We are definitely not going to be sitting around and saying, ‘OK, let’s just stop everything that we’re doing and wait and see,’” Klug says. “We weren’t prepared the last time, and at least if we’re semi-prepared for the next go-around, we’ll be OK.”