Learning Lessons From the Past | VideoAlex Hagan | 7/9/2012
When that boom busted, it left cities like Dickinson looking like ghost towns. Now the city is facing another dilemma with the same activity, if not more, than it saw 30 years ago. City leaders are now learning from what happened years ago in order to prevent a let down if the black gold rush leaves.
Dickinson`s streets are busy now, but that wasn`t always the case after the last oil boom in the 80`s left town.
"It kind of went back to a small, quiet little cove. You know there was not the traffic, the people, you knew everybody again," said Les Borsheim, who lived in Dickinson during the 80`s.
Although the town was quiet, the city wasn`t in good shape.
"People left, the economy went down, the housing was up for sale and a lot of banks got in trouble, and it affects you, the way you live and everything," Borsheim said.
But the oil industry always knew the area was prime for extraction, it just wasn`t successful at that time.
"We`ve known for decades that there was oil in the Bakken, but at that time what the technology was available was conventional vertical drilling and the chances of drilling a productive well were one in six, or about 17 percent," said Kari Bjerke Cutting with the North Dakota Petroleum Council.
That led to the bust and all of the utilities the city paid for left Dickinson with a huge dilemma.
"The specials weren`t paid, and so they became an encumbrance upon the city. So the city was $20 million in debt at the end of the bust cycle that happened in the 80`s. So we`re really trying to avoid those types of heavy investment," said City Administrator Shawn Kessel.
City leaders say the biggest issue they`re dealing with right now is trying to prevent overbuilding.
"We`re really looking hard at determining how much land needs to come into the community, based upon the housing needs," Kessel said.
However, oil experts are confident the boom will stick around.
"It is essentially assured that where you drill a well it is going to be productive. In fact, it`s been estimated that it is higher than a 98 percent chance that you will hit a productive well," Cutting said.
Residents in town say they are happy with how the city is handling the situation.
"They`re doing the best they can with what they got. They`re not doing too bad at it," Borsheim said.
The previous oil boom left Dickinson in a sticky situation, but this time around, city leaders are confident that won`t happen again. City leaders are working with contractors on developing estimates of what the city`s population will be in order to make sure they can hone in on the right amount of housing.