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Published March 29 2012

Land Board approves $12M to help oil counties

BISMARCK — Emergency services feeling the strain in western North Dakota’s Oil Patch will receive a $12 million boost to help their equipment, training and vehicle needs.

After initially setting aside $7 million in assistance, the state Board of University and School Lands unanimously agreed Thursday to increase the amount.

Addressing public safety is a top priority for the energy impact program, which is why additional funding was recommended, said Lance Gaebe, director of the Energy Infrastructure and Impact Office.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple said the needs are much greater than anybody thought even a few months ago.

“In regard to the emergency services, $12 million will make a significant difference in the delivery of emergency services in oil country,” he said.

Out of the 163 applications asking for $40.4 million–not all of which met the emergency services criteria of this funding round–the board agreed to give partial funding to 106 requests.

The awards break down like this:

Fire departments: $5.3 million for 59 requests

Ambulances: $4 million for 29 requests

Joint law enforcement/fire/ambulance: $2.1 million for six requests

Law enforcement: $562,937 for 12 requests

Awards include $200,000 each for new ambulances in Belfield and Medora, $100,000 for a new ambulance in Bowman and $350,000 for a new rescue vehicle and equipment for Dickinson Rural Fire District.

The city of Dickinson will receive $10,500 for oilfield emergency training classes and $1.5 million for a public safety center. Killdeer Area Ambulance will receive $120,000 for a new ambulance and $466,000 for an ambulance garage.

You can see the full list of awards here.

Here is a dollar breakdown by county.

Also Thursday, the Land Board agreed to spend up to $5 million to help rapidly-growing schools in the Oil Patch. The state defines rapidly growing as an annual increase of at least 7 percent, as long as the district added at least 25 students.

Earlier this week, the energy office received a letter from Williston Public Schools asking for financial help for temporary portable classrooms, Gaebe said. The School District asked for $3 million in help for the next school year to accommodate an influx of students.

The board agreed to help Williston, and the energy office will notify other eligible school districts of the potential for funding help. The schools would need to demonstrate a need for money, which can only be used for K-8 temporary classrooms and requires a local match.

During the last session, the Legislature agreed the state could spend up to $100 million during the 2011-13 biennium to help address needs in western North Dakota’s 17 oil- and gas-producing counties. The money for these grants comes from taxes paid to the state by the oil and gas industry.

The Land Board also has an additional $30 million from the general fund for impact grants. In November, the Legislature approved spending the extra money if oil and gas tax collections exceed projections by at least $48 million, which they have.

Therefore, $2 million of the emergency service grants came from the original impact fund, while the remaining $10 million came from the new $30 million.

The Land Board has already allocated $53.5 million to help city infrastructure and $2 million to help townships in oil country. The next round of funding will focus on airports, counties, parks and other infrastructure.

Check back for more on this story.