Knowledgeable on many state issues in his other roles, this time Shane Goettle spoke to me Friday evening as an assistant attorney for several western ND cities in order to answer this and other infrastructure questions. Goettle set the stage on the need for infrastructure speaking to the number of new people in our state.
WATCH “In the past decade with oil development in North Dakota, we’ve had well over 100,000 people that are now calling North Dakota home.”
Known as the Surge Bill, the legislature has been working since session opened to fast-track this infrastructure assistance. Goettle pointed out that the sooner the money has been approved, the sooner they can secure contracts in order to get projects started in time.
WATCH “If we want to take full advantage of construction season , we need the resources to go out and bid. We have to bid now . These are 2015 dollars.”
Not only that, but there are cost benefits for doing so.
WATCH “We actually might save some money if we can get out now because contractors are busy right now looking for work. If we can get out and bid this spring we know that bids historically come in lower in the spring than they do later in the summer.”
Despite the desire to get assistance passed quickly, there has been some clarification requested on some of the spending (which was initially questioned by some). I asked Goettle if he felt this request for clarification was disingenuous or if there was merit to it. After all, it’s a billion dollars, right?
WATCH “I wouldn’t use the word disingenuous at all. I think he was very earnest in trying to understand what the money would be deployed for.”
And if there are specific projects that are held up simply because they are waiting for funding approval, shouldn’t all of the details of these projects be pretty clear at this point?
WATCH “We’re trying to make the case that the biggest priority right now for western North Dakota [… are] roads, water, sewers and the streets.”
It appears most legislators do not question the need for infrastructure assistance in oil country. That couldn’t be more evident than the fact that the bill passed 44-2 a few weeks ago in the senate. Still, I asked Goettle if he had noticed any particular battle lines drawn between certain groups (Democrats vs Republicans, or eastern vs western legislators).
WATCH “Well, take a look at the senate vote. The senate vote … there were only two votes opposing this. And not because … I don’t even think those votes were necessarily opposed for infrastructure in western North Dakota. So that was bi-partisan and east and west.”
Bottom line, there will be a lot of dollars set aside for western infrastructure development and it appears to be with a lot support. Right now, $300 million are set aside for counties to improve roads, $350 million for cities (the big 10 counties including the hub cities). The rest of the money is going to outside those counties that are still impacted.