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Dan Dolechek, Published April 08 2012

Letter: Local community leaders quite capable of dealing with change in ND Oil Patch

I’m writing in response to Forum Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski’s recent column “Time for candid talk about oil boom.” These discussions are taking place locally throughout western North Dakota. Communities are planning for the future while building and expanding to meet the current demands on our infrastructure.

There are people – local people – who are concerned about the effect oil development is having on our communities. They have every right to be involved in the discussion – they live here.

Every time I see a newspaper column from outside the Oil Patch lamenting the loss of the “small town and heritage” in western North Dakota and dictating some course of action we are to take, I think: Who are they to tell us how to live our lives and manage our private property? How would they feel if we told them how they should develop their economy or build their flood protection?

Our history and heritage is that our communities have been dying for decades. Our children left to find good jobs, and businesses fled because we didn’t have the economy to keep them. For the first time since the 1970s, our local economies are strong, our populations are increasing and we are attracting job hunters from all across the country. Is it perfect? No. But it is good and getting better.

Local communities are discussing how to meet the demands on infrastructure, and together we are deciding how we want our communities to expand. We are working with state officials to secure aid for improvements to roads and infrastructure, as well as housing and safety. But even the state recognizes that how we develop is up to us and not some mandate they should hand down. Our communities will grow and change, but how they grow and change is up to us.

Agriculture, energy and the land is our future, and we can have it all. And no one will take better care of us than us.

Dolechek is mayor of Killdeer, N.D.