November 13, 2014

Keeping up the Vision


VisionWest Plan ready for the Legislature

By Jerry W. Kram

It’s been a long three years, according to Shirley Brentup, executive director of the VisionWest Consortium.

That’s how long the group of western counties, city and Fort Berthold Reservation segments have been working on a plan to help communities in Western North Dakota coped with the flood of impacts that have accompanied the Bakken Oil Boom. The consortium held one of its final regular meetings in Parshall last week to discuss how to support the plan and carry on the work of the group when its funding ends next next month.

Brentup said that as a project funded by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the consortium as a group cannot do any lobbying for its proposals at the Legislature. However, it has shared its plan with the Legislative Council and provided copies to members of the Legislature. She said it is up to the individual members of the consortium to work with their legislators to support individual bills.

"The plan itself has shown that there is a group in western North Dakota that has identified their needs and made them known," Brentup said. "The most important thing is our members represent themselves as a region. It’s not just me asking, but that we are here as a group. We are a sparsely populated region so we have to go in as a group."

Consortium Chair Daryl Dukart, a Dunn County Commissioner, said consortium members have expressed their support for a "surge" of one time funding that would go to the four largest oil producing counties – Williams, Dunn, Mountrail and McKenzie. That funding would total about $800 million. Dukart said the plan also calls for a change in the distribution of oil extraction taxes so more money would come back to local governments to cope with the demands for services and infrastructure that have come with the oil boom.

"That should help build communities in general in western North Dakota," he said.

Dukart said he has reviewed the plan with legislators across the state. The response has been mostly positive, but he has had to address some fears that west wants to monopolize oil funding in the state.

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