City That Can’t Keep Up With Infrastructure Building Indoor Surfing Facility
For some time now I’ve been cautioning that we should be wary of western North Dakota political leaders using the state’s oil boom as cover for bloating their budgets. While there are legitimate oil impact concerns, some less-than-scrupulous bureaucrats and politicians aren’t afraid to leverage oil impact into lots of funding for projects that should be pretty low priority.
Last year the City of Williston passed a 1% increase in their city sales tax to fund their parks department. That decision, coming as it does in a city that apparently can’t keep up with road building and other sorts of infrastructure, was questionable. A new tax pumping revenues into the parks when the city has severe traffic, housing and other infrastructure problem is just plain foolish.
But get a load of what Williston is spending their money on. A gigantic aquatics facility that includes indoor surfing, of all things. This article is from April, but as political candidates in the state (I’m looking at you, Ryan Taylor) make an issue out of state funding of western communities, it’s worth noting that it’s politics as usual in some of these communities.
“Surfing in Williston is close at hand,” said Douglass Whiteaker, of Water Technology Inc. in Wisconsin, who gave the slideshow presentation to the board.
Williston Park Board President Larry Grondahl had a smile on his face when Whiteaker was finished.
“This is going to be a top-flight water center,” Grondahl said.
However, Whiteaker took it one step further.
“This is going to be more than top flight,” Whiteaker said. “This is going to be spectacular.”
The project is still in the design phase, and estimates now measure the building to be more than 241,000 square feet. It will be built on the campus of Williston State College, and in addition to the water center, it will feature an indoor playground, racquetball courts, golf simulator, an indoor track, tennis courts, turf field, basketball courts, meeting rooms and more.
Funding for the project was approved by Williston voters last year with a 1-cent sales tax.
Including in that 1-cent sales tax is funding to improve existing Parks and Recreation facilities.
There aren’t enough houses for everyone to live in Williston. There aren’t enough roads for all the traffic. Sewer and water capacity are serious concerns. Western counties and cities, Williston among them, have been screaming for more funds from the state.
But even as they demand more statewide tax dollars, Williston is using their sales tax wind fall (the city has more taxable sales than Fargo despite being a fraction of the population) to build a lavish recreational facility that’s a quarter of a million square feet in size.
In fact, the facility is so large that each one of Williston’s 16,000 citizens (according to the 2011 census number which, admittedly, are way out of date) could be afforded 15 square feet of space within.
This is an outrage. The city can’t allow people to temporarily live in RV’s because they claim they don’t have the law enforcement or fire protection resources to make it safe. The city has put a moratorium on crew camps because they claim they don’t have the infrastructure to serve them.
But money for indoor surfing? They’ve got plenty of money for that.
State leaders ought to keep this aqcuatic center in mind the next time the City of Williston comes sniffing around for more statewide funds.Tags: Asshats, North Dakota News, williston