Millions more for Minot

Minot sees gains in proposed infrastructure funding plan

Jill Schramm/MDN Sen. Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, talks about the proposed Prairie Dog bill at a news conference in Minot Thursday.

The amount of hub city money coming to Minot would nearly double under a formula being proposed in legislation outlined by legislators at a news conference Thursday in Minot.

Dubbed “Operation Prairie Dog,” the proposal as explained by Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, and Rep. Mike Nathe, R-Bismarck, includes both hub city funding and oil tax distributions to non-oil producing cities, including those in Ward County, as well as additional county funding.

The proposal keeps Williston, Dickinson and Minot as hub cities. Minot would be guaranteed $5.8 million, but based on a conservative assumption of $52 a barrel oil and a production estimate below current production, Minot would receive about $12.1 million during the biennium. That could go higher if assumptions are exceeded. The current budget has been about $6 million.

Williston would be guaranteed $25.8 million, with an assumption of $54.8 million. Dickinson would be guaranteed $12.4 million, with an assumption of $25.9 million.

The proposal changes the hub city formula so distributions no longer would be based entirely on mining employment but would consider factors such as city growth, regional mining activity and local mining entities within the city.

Jill Schramm/MDN Rep. Mike Nathe speaks at a news conference about an infrastructure funding bill in Minot. Listening at left are Bob Paulson, Rep. Scott Louser, Sen. Rich Wardner. Rep. Matt Ruby looks over the funding proposal at right.

Minot School District would be guaranteed $800,000, with an assumption of $2.2 million for the biennium. That compares just over $1 million budgeted for 2017-19.

The proposal calls for $115 million for incorporated cities in non-oil producing counties, $100 million for counties and $15 million for townships. Another $50 million would be available to airports for infrastructure.

The money going to non-oil producing counties would be restricted for infrastructure development. Due to its size, Fargo would get the largest share, capped at just over $25.3 million. Bismarck would be capped at $16.1 million. West Fargo is at $12.4 million and Grand Forks could receive $12 million.

Smaller communities would receive lesser amounts. Assumptions for some area communities are Rugby, $918,045; Bottineau, $842,153; Garrison, $352,838; Surrey, 404,062; Velva, $313,459; Burlington, $384,709; and Mohall, $116,377.

Allocation of county money for roads and bridges is based on a study by the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, which would be updated every two years for this ongoing funding program.

Ward County is estimated to get $5.76 million in the allocation next biennium, under the proposal. Although Ward County is an oil-producing county, it’s production is minimal, prompting the inclusion of Ward in the funding allocation for non-producing counties.

Nathe said there has been money spent on infrastructure in western North Dakota during the oil boom.

“We all supported that. But now it’s come the time that we also need to start building out the rest of the state,” he said.

“We have severe infrastructure needs,” he added. “This is a way we feel is the best way to help our communities, the best way to take the oil tax money and invest it back into our communities throughout the state.”

Because the state must collect the money before it can be distributed, allocations to non-hub cities aren’t expected to go out before the fall of 2020. However, the state’s largest cities would be able to begin getting the first $2.5 million of their allocations right away.

Wardner said the state still needs to take care of its oil-producing cities and counties, which continue to have enormous needs in infrastructure.

“We are concerned about the quality of life but we are also concerned that the industry can do their job because they are the goose that’s laying the golden egg,” he said.

He noted Minot has $325 million of infrastructure needs and Ward County $362 million for a total of $687 million.

“That’s why this bill before you is meant to be a long-term bill,” Wardner said.

Minot legislators attending the news conference were Republicans Rep. Scott Louser, Dan Ruby, Matt Ruby and Sens. Oley Larsen and Randy Burckhard. District 3 candidate Bob Paulson and District 5 candidate Jay Fisher, both Republicans running for the House, also attended. Ward County Commissioners Shelly Weppler and Larry Louser attended from the county and Mayor Shaun Sipma from the city.

“I am very comfortable with it,” Scott Louser said of the proposal. “I like how Minot is protected.” He said there has been legislative conversation about doing away with the hub city program, but he supports both the program and the inclusion of Minot as a hub city.

Had Minot instead been included among non-hub cities, its infrastructure funding would have been limited to about $10 million.

Wardner said a third piece of the Prairie Dog proposal, involving use of Legacy Fund dollars, is being developed and will be presented at a later time.