BERTHOLD - No need to put an ear to the ground - it's coming.
Berthold is enjoying its last days as a small, sleepy community as city officials wonder how they are going to cope with a population explosion looming in the immediate future.
Mayor Alan Lee said that Five Stone Development is moving along with plans to place a subdivision just north of the city that in all likelihood will increase Berthold's population by 60 percent immediately.
Lee said Five Stone is currently working on sewer permits, and zoning will possibly be finalized for the development on Jan. 9 when the Berthold City Council meets.
Lee said Wednesday that Five Stone representative Dave Berry has been busy on the project for some time.
"He's been working hard for about three months now," Lee said. "He's put a lot of work and a lot of effort into it so far."
Lee said the bulk of the development will be permanent housing subdivisions.
According to the Five Stone website at (www.5stonedev.com), Five Stone Ranch will have "200-plus" homes available in 2012.
Lee said the city's zoning needed a bit of an overhaul because of this development.
The initial phase involves about 200 to 300 homes, he said, but it might not end there.
"We weren't in any way ready to handle this kind of influx of people," Lee chuckled.
"Ultimately, (Berry is) talking 2,200 homes," he said. "Wow. If everything goes right, he's hoping to have between 300 and 600 this year (2012)."
The impact cannot be overstated, Lee said.
"At three people per household, 300 more than doubles the size of the town," he said. "That's 900 people. (Berthold is) at about 500 right now."
The effect will be huge on a city that employs one maintenance person and one auditor. In addition, Lee is one of five city council members.
Lee said Ward County Sheriff Steve Kukowski's office has been in attendance at meetings and is aware that the looming development might necessitate the placement of a patrol deputy in Berthold.
"Three hundred homes will certainly put us comparable in size to Kenmare," Lee said.
Plans were already under way for an expansion to the Berthold school, but since they were based on growth of the school a few years ago, those might prove to be inadequate nearly immediately.
"We didn't know how to comprehend that, in all honesty," Lee said. "Everybody's watching this with a lot of caution - because it's going to be a drastic change for us.
"We'll no longer be the quiet little community we had."
Indeed, Lee knows that such a change will have a large effect on Main Street as well.
"All our businesses that aren't reliant on agriculture totally have seen growth," Lee said. "The restaurant and the bar are doing really good."
The town's meat market already has standing orders for every bit of meat it can put out, Lee said.
"Hopefully we'll get a grocery store," he said. "With that many people, we should be able to support a grocery store."
The Farmer's Union Cenex at U.S. Highway 2 is already extremely busy.
"They've done a great job staffing it with friendly people," Lee said. "They're looking at putting more (fueling) islands there soon, and they're already having a hard time finding parking for all these vehicles."
Lee said that the town's physical location is another advantage, with regional center Minot and oil-booming Stanley, each 30 miles away.
"It's pretty attractive," he said. "And the four-lane highway has been a real blessing.
"We laughed at them when they built it. But I give the people in Williston a lot of credit - 20 years they worked on that thing, and the timing couldn't have been a week too soon."
"It's an interesting time around here," Lee said. "We've got people who embrace the growth and we've got people who would like to see it all go south and get away from here. But it's here."