Back in May I wrote a story about the City of Ray’s poop shortage. Now a candidate for President of the United State has picked up on it.
The city built a sewage treatment plant expansion predicting a massive surge in population growth only to find that the whole “if you build it they will come” thing only works in Kevin Costner movies. Now the city isn’t producing enough sewage to operate the plant, so they’ve started offering cut rate and even free dumping services.
Which, of course, angered the private businesses who provide those services.
“Our members have also been impacted by the decrease in oilfield activity,” Keith Ehlers, a spokesman for the Independent Sewage Providers, told me. “Not only are they dealing with the practical issues of operating with lower inflows, just as the City is, but our members invested their own money in these plants and are working through the financial implications of reduced business activity without the luxury of oil impacts grants, surge funding, authority to levy taxes, etc.”
Senator Rand Paul’s Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight picked up on the story and put out a press release about it yesterday (read it below).
“A little town made a big gamble and is now importing sewage. Kind of a funny story; that is, until you learn that the federal taxpayer footed much of the bill for the sewer upgrade,” the release from Paul’s committee says. “That’s right, through the EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund, federal dollars passed through the state and on to Ray as low interest loans, of which more than $760k was later forgiven.”
“Ray and the state seemed to have gotten caught up in the excitement of a boom and missed the forest for the trees. Ray’s 2015 comprehensive plan forecast its population to grow by a minimum of 396 percent by the end of this decade,” the release continues. “But Williams County (where Ray is located), projected only 22 percent population growth countywide by 2020, with a peak of 32 percent in 2025, in its 2012 comprehensive plan.”
I wonder if we’ll run into more examples of this sort of thing as North Dakota moves into the post-oil boom era. Our state economy is still strong, and there’s no bust in sight, but there was a lot of money getting thrown around out west and it wouldn’t surprise me if there were more examples of people getting a little carried away with the spending.