Watford City is planning for another major construction season which city and county leaders hope will entice more families to make the city their permanent home, reports The Forum News Service (FNS).
The projects the city has planned are aimed to accommodate the growing population of youth. As reported by FNS, McKenzie County Healthcare Systems CEO Dan Kelly said, “For the most part, when I moved to Watford City in 2007, it was an aging community. We literally were looking at perhaps closing the elementary school and consolidating it to the high school.”
But now, with a fast growing population of young couples and their offspring, the city is attempting to adapt to the shifting demographics and attract more permanent residents. Kelly added, “The reality is our community is changing … we need to change our focus.” This spring Watford City plans to begin construction on a new school for grades 7-12, an events center and a hospital.
When deciding to relocate, many families and individuals consider an area’s schools, healthcare providers and recreation. “We really are positioning ourselves to be a community that is attractive to family,” Kelly stated. McKenzie County Economic Development Director Gene Veeder reports that many people are expressing desires to remain in the city.
Regarding the proposed growth, Watford City is considering the longevity of the oil industry. City officials anticipate well production to continue for 20 years and are looking to attract oilfield workers that will be in long-term positions. McKenzie County Commission Chair Ron Anderson reported to FNS that now is the right time to open projects for bidding from contractors. As more contractors have become established in the area, contracting bids have dropped 10 to 20 percent due to increased competition.
Last year, construction began on the new school for grades 7-12 and the district is planning for a new elementary school to further support the growing population of children. The hospital is still in the process of raising funds and is about halfway to reaching its goal. It, too, will shift its focus to youth, offering services such as obstetrics. Overall, the new facilities will add to the area’s attractiveness for families. Veeder said, “It’s 30 years of building going on in three years. It’s overwhelming, but it has to be done.”