- Associated Press - Monday, June 23, 2014

WATFORD CITY, N.D. (AP) - Watford City is wasting no time following the June 10 approval of a one-cent sales tax increase and a $1 million donation from a major gas processor to build a new hospital and health care facility.

A groundbreaking on the $59 million facility will be held June 27 during the community’s centennial, a way to mark the exceptional progress this boom town is making at the cusp of its second century of history.

Hospital board chairwoman Patsy Levang said the gift from Oneok Partners, a developer of liquid natural gas from oil production in the Watford City area, highlights the role the oil industry has in shaping the town’s future.

“This project was too big a task not to invite our new business partners in oil, gas and pipelines to assist us,” Levang said.

The project will replace the town’s 1950-era hospital at a new location and build a new emergency room, clinic and Good Shepherd Nursing Home under the same roof.

Levang told the Bismarck Tribune (http://bit.ly/1ysGvBu) the hospital’s pre-boom emergency visits numbered about 15 a month. Today, the emergency room staff sees upward of 560 patients in a month.

Levang said other oil companies either have helped or said they will help provide modern, state-of-the-art health care for their workers and their workers’ families.

The community’s historic population of 1,500 is now estimated at 15,000 and expected to reach 22,000.

“We really must move at warp speed,” Levang said.

The new hospital is one of several community improvements that will be assisted by the June 10 primary vote to increase the city’s sales tax another penny. The vote of 364 in favor and 63 opposed was cheered by city officials as yet another show of support for the town’s future. They said some of the money will go toward a $57 million events center.

The events center will be built near a new high school, for which voters approved a bond levy by a 90 percent margin a few months earlier.

Levang said the hospital fundraising committee hopes to raise $15.5 million in all and has $3 million in hand. Besides sales tax revenue, other financing will come from the Bank of North Dakota and USDA Rural Development. She said the McKenzie County Commission also has committed to $1 million toward the project.

Oneok Partners made its case last week at a public hearing in Watford City for a new gas plant capable of processing 200 million cubic feet daily of natural gas from oil wells into a variety of gas products and liquids. The project will cost $280 million and could be the first of two built at a location 13 miles southwest of Watford City.

It is already processing 600 million cubic feet at other plants in the oil patch.

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