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Published June 28 2012

State OKs $25 million in grants for Oil Patch

BISMARCK – State officials approved nearly $25 million worth of grants Thursday to help the state’s oil- and gas-producing counties.

The Board of University and School Lands awarded $4 million to address public safety and education-related projects that will benefit several counties.

The Southwest Multi-County Correction Center in Dickinson will receive $705,000 to update control room equipment to improve facility safety. Operations Administrator Doris Songer said she is thrilled to get funding to update the equipment installed in 1981.

“With the changing demographic and the diverse population brought upon by the oil impact, our six owner counties have seen an increase in the number of inmates housed here,” she said. “We’re very excited to get this (money) to bring us up to date in our control room.”

McKenzie County will receive $800,000 to help with a law enforcement center remodel, and $1.2 million to help its landfill with the “overwhelming increase in municipal and solid waste.”

The board also provided $806,000 to assist with teacher housing in Alexander, Grenora, Watford City and Tioga. State Superintendent Wayne Sanstead said he was pleased to see help for the school districts.

The board also pledged $20.8 million to help 13 smaller oil cities with infrastructure needs.

Crosby will receive

$4.1 million for water and wastewater infrastructure expansion. Other cities awarded water/sewer funding include Belfield ($100,000), Bowman ($40,000), Halliday ($188,000), Richardton ($50,000) and South Heart ($1 million).

South Heart Mayor Floyd Hurt called the funding “wonderful news.”

“It’s very important. It would help us a great deal because we’re needing the money to grow,” he said. “We need lagoon space, and we need another water tower. We’re going to need a lot more money than that to make the project go, but that would be a great, great help.”

In the past year, the Land Board has approved or pledged $114.4 million in impact grants to help the oil- and-gas producing counties. Another $5 million went to help schools dealing with rapid enrollment growth.

The Land Board has also set aside $500,000 for a grant round to help oil cities facing a child care shortage.

That leaves about $9.3 million in grant funding for the next fiscal year for townships, emergency services, other political subdivisions and special needs that may arise.

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

In November, the Legislature approved spending $30 million from the general fund for impact grants if oil and gas tax collections exceeded projections by at least $48 million, which they have.

A list of projects approved for state funding is at www.nd.gov/energyimpact.

Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.