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Study shows growth of 600 for Kenmare during next 15 years

So, is Kenmare going to grow? And how much? And when? Or not?

5/18/11 (Wed)

Oil and potash will drive growth


So, is Kenmare going to grow?


And how much?


And when?


Or not?


Anyone who could see into the future today and respond, with certainty, to those questions about any city in western North Dakota would be in high demand.


The Kenmare City Council and Kenmare Community Development Corporation took the more reliable step, however, to commission the Kenmare Growth Management Plan with Ackerman-Estvold Engineering and Management Consulting, Inc.


A focus group of local individuals representing several aspects of the community has been meeting since February to provide input for the plan. Last Thursday, one of the biggest keys to Kenmare’s development was revealed: population projections through the year 2034.


Sean Weeks of Ackerman-Estvold presented the results of the study, completed by Keith Witwer and Associates, Minot. Taking into account the impact from oil and gas development in the area, Kenmare currently has a population of 1,218 permanent residents, or 1,300 with the transient workers who follow the oil and gas drilling rigs and typically commute to permanent homes elsewhere.


Considering only oil and gas development, the Witwer study suggested Kenmare would see annual growth ranging from 15-20 permanent residents and 10-60 transient residents through the year 2025, when the permanent population was estimated at 1,484 and the population with transients at 1,536. After that year, Kenmare’s population is expected to decline slightly through 2034, falling to 1,270 permanent residents.


The study referenced the expected pattern of development in the oilfield, with the Bakken/Three Forks region seeing two drilling phases, the first ending in 2013 and the second in 2025.


However, given Kenmare’s proximity to the expected potash development in Burke and Divide counties, the Witwer study also modeled the city’s population based on potash-related workers. Those data suggest a permanent population of 1,853 by 2025, or 1,906 residents including transient workers, and a population of 1,825 by the year 2034.


“The potash industry seems to have a more sustainable work force,” said Kenmare city engineer Ryan Ackerman. “The associated work forces have a more stable presence. We’ll be able to sustain the peaks in population longer than communities based on oil and gas development.”


Kenmare mayor Roger Ness acknowledged the population numbers for Kenmare appear optimistic, given the boom-and-bust track the oilfield can take and the questions remaining about potash development. “I’d like to see those numbers,” he said. “They’re very encouraging.”


Other members of the focus group called the numbers speculative, but Ackerman believed the study results would be useful. “We want to keep in mind the growth of Kenmare is going to be a long-term process,” he said. “We’re looking at it peaking out in 2028, which is good. With these population numbers in place, they can serve as a basis for analyzing all the infrastructure needed to support these population numbers, and we can develop a game plan for what is necessary in the town and what makes a lot of sense for us [in Kenmare].”


Community betterment tool

Members of the focus group discussed several aspects of Kenmare’s potential growth with Ackerman, including the extra-territorial area around Kenmare still under the city’s jurisdiction, converting the two small baseball/softball fields by the high school into a single large field, water and sewer expansion issues, zoning ordinances to target appropriate development, the need for repairs on 6th Street through town, tax incentives for developers, rental rates, and assessed property values.


Ackerman advised the city to consider the growth management plan as a tool to handle new development offers and challenges. “Once that [plan is] in place, that gives the council some teeth to make some tough decisions,” he said.


Focus group member Troy Hedberg described the plan as a community betterment tool. He noted that the group attempted to consider all aspects of life in Kenmare for the plan, everything from water runoff and sidewalks to safety in the community.


Rolly Ackerman of Ackerman-Estvold also commented on the list of items the group had mentioned in the previous weeks, including new infrastructure, new housing needs, transitional housing needs, sewer capacity and the schedule for building the new water tower. Streets, highways and county roads were of primary concern, with issues regarding drainage, gutters, paving, pedestrian access and the proposed walking trail.


The group also wanted landfill usage, mobile home locations, school capacity, alternate trucking routes, recreation, construction standards, emergency routes and the railroad’s impact to be among the considerations addressed in the final plan.


City auditor and Kenmare Community Development Corporation executive director Ralph Hoversten explained the focus group started with a basic map of the city. “We want to make informed, educated decisions about where we want our growth to go,” he said. “We want to know what we have to do to supplement it in terms of infrastructure and for the betterment of the community.”


Looking at the population projections, Hoversten said outside forces may cause the city to shift and adapt its plan. “Things may happen over which the city has no control,” he said. “[With the oil and gas development], we could be at the mercy of markets and corporations. However, we’ll have a blueprint, not only for the next year or two, but for the next 10 to 20 years.”


Public input needed

when draft plan is ready

With the Kenmare population study now completed, Ryan Ackerman will finalize the Kenmare Growth Management Plan and prepare a document for the focus group’s review and public consideration.


“This is a tool we figured we needed for development,” said Ness.


“I think we’re on the right path with this,” added Hoversten. “We’re going to find some challenges about how we’re going to grow.”


The North Dakota Department of Commerce is paying 25 percent of the cost for the plan, with several grants made available to communities around the state. “Watford City has done this,” Ness said, “and Mohall is doing one now.”


The KCDC has pledged $10,000 toward the cost of the plan, with the city of Kenmare paying the balance.


“We’re doing this just about at the right time, with all the development that’s happening around us,” said Ness. “Now we know how big we can expect Kenmare to be, and we can plan things like our lagoon and sewer system for our projected population.”


Hoversten is looking forward to implementation of the final document. “We can’t just go through this process and let it sit in City Hall and collect dust,” he said. “It will be up to the Planning & Zoning Commission, the City Council and the Development Corporation to utilize this plan as much as possible.”


After the draft plan is completed later this summer, Ness wants local residents to weigh in with their ideas and opinions.


“This will be a starting point, and someone else may have a better idea,” he said. “We want the public to have some input if they don’t think we’re going in the right direction. We want a product that will be good for the whole town now and in the future.”


A future that seems to welcome more residents to town.