Downside of the oil boom – towns struggling to provide infrastructure

Bloomberg describes the struggle many towns in Montana are facing from the ripple effects of the oil boom:  Montana Towns Struggle With Oil Boom Cost as Dollars Flee.

The wear on roads, increased school enrollment, and load on sewage treatment are a few of the issues hitting small communities on the periphery of the North Dakota boom. Lack of housing in Williston is pushing people to drive from nearby communities, which do not have an ability to rapidly increase their public services.

Here’s a brief picture:

Jails are filled to capacity, prompting officials to consider freeing less-violent offenders. Planners worry overflowing sewers will force them to ration building permits. School administrators say they may need to turn gymnasiums and hallways into classrooms to serve an expanding student body.

Picture this for the near term development plans in Bainville, a city that recently grew from 150 residents to 450:

The town with a two-pump gas station, two bars and an annual budget of $250,000, is likely to triple in size again in the next few years as developers finish plans for two hotels, retail shops, offices and condos and several subdivisions.

How do you handle that volume of growth? How do you provide a rapid increase in sewer capacity? How do the employers find enough people to staff those two hotels and shops?

In Sidney, the plant that processes sugar beets is struggling to hire enough staff. Sidney Sugars built an RV park with 50 spaces last year and is planning to put up a 42-person dorm, according to the article. I recall seeing their plant during our recent trip to Williston. How do you get 300 people to work for 5 months when there’s little available housing?

Here’s the picture in Sidney (a small city just down the road from Williston) when the article’s author interviewed the director of public works for the article

…both the town’s coffee cart and the local McDonald’s were closed for lack of workers 

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