LETTER: Boom towns learned from previous bust
GRAND FORKS — The oil boom has created such a growth spurt that there’s talk of a special session to get more money to keep up with it all.
I lived in Dickinson in the 1980s during the previous oil boom. Back then, it was Dickinson and the small towns around it that had to build up for the boom.
That little city and those little towns all went into the red as they tried to keep up, spending heavily on new streets, sewer systems, lights, law enforcement and more.
Then when the price of oil fell and the boom busted, all those towns found themselves stuck with the costs of all that growth.
Suddenly, the revenue streams dried up, and that badly hurt the whole region.
I remember the region’s representatives basically begging the state for money to help with the bills that still had to be paid.
I and others who lived out there remember how other regions that had been more than more than happy to share the oil wealth suddenly couldn’t see why the costs were anyone’s problem other than our own.
There was a general attitude that the eastern part of the state had too much power and was hanging the West out to dry.
I moved away after the bust, so I really didn’t follow what ultimately happened. I think more money at last was allocated, but I don’t know the whole story.
Anyway, my point is that I think Williston and the other boom towns are being smarter about it this time around.
During these periods, people think this wave is going to continue to ride high, but the wave always crashes. After that, the businesses that had gouged customers during the growth years practically beg them to come back, and the towns get very nervous about how they’re going to pay all the bills.
After the last boom, I saw a bumper sticker that said it all: “Please lord, bring back the Boom; we promise not to screw it up this time.”
I think those in charge out there are trying to be true to that philosophy this time around.