STANLEY Ward Heidbreder enjoys working under pressure. That's why he feels he's in the right job as city coordinator in Stanley.
As head of public works in the oil-boom community, Heidbreder has seen deadlines for long-range infrastructure improvements suddenly all move up to yesterday.
"With the improvements we make today, we try to think 30 years ahead. But what we were thinking three years ago when the oil industry came into this area got us about five years behind. We are not thinking ahead quite far enough. We are getting caught being reactive rather than proactive," Heidbreder said.
Jill Schramm/MDN •
Ward Heidbreder, Stanley city coordinator, stands next to a city map in Stanley City Hall April 30.
This year, the city is giving a facelift to Main Street and Sixth Avenue. It's the first reconstruction of that portion of N.D. Highway 8 since the streets were first paved 50 years ago.
"The timing is really perfect for us. The town is growing. We are bursting at the seams," said Heidbreder, who has been city coordinator since April 2004. "When I first started, I could name every owner of every residence or its occupant. We had more slack time to do some extra projects. Right now, it's a struggle to get the little extra things done. But we are meeting all the new people and we are starting to put names to faces. And they live in Stanley. They are not just somebody from out of state or out of Stanley. They live here. They are part of the community. Everybody is getting that community feeling again. It's getting to the point where people realize that we are a community, not just a place to make a living."
Heidbreder believes a sense of community is necessary for a town to function. He takes seriously his role in helping to create that atmosphere.
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"It's deeply ingrained in me to want to serve," he said. "I love my community."
Heidbreder grew up in Stanley, graduating from its high school in 1984. He joined the Marines and later traveled for a few years before family and a yearning for his hometown brought him back in the early 1990s. Before becoming city coordinator, Heidbreder was employed by a waste-water handling company that worked with municipal governments.
Heidbreder now oversees a staff of four that handles garbage pick-up, performs street repairs and manages the water and sewer systems.
Last year, Stanley completed a major downtown water and sewer repair project. Currently, the city is working with R & T Water Supply Association to improve its water system. The city's waste-water handling system also is about half the size it should be . The Stanley City Council has an engineer designing an expansion.
Another project already under way is water and sewer construction to a new commercial area in the southeast part of town near the junction of Highway 8 and U.S. Highway 2. In addition, a private developer is building a 40-acre industrial park south of Highway 2, and new sewer lines and possibly water lines will be going to that area.
Stanley faces numerous street maintenance projects because of the increased and heavier traffic. Maintenance gets shorted because there's so much focus on expansion, Heidbreder said.
"We are going to do it. It's just a matter of catching our breath," he said.
The city values the oil tax revenue that has helped fund infrastructure projects. Heidbreder said it's not always enough, but with federal and state funds and other grants, things are working out. Increased business activity and new construction also have served to increase sales and property tax revenues for the city.
Still, residents are having to pick up more costs associated with special assessments. The number of city projects has pushed Stanley to its bonding ceiling, which restricts its ability to use city dollars to offset the cost of the assessments.
Heidbreder expects his job to remain hectic for the next couple of years before the public works department eventually catches up with the growth.
"I have to give the people in town credit. They make our job easy. Our city council makes it very simple to do the job. They give us what we need, we give the community what they need and the community is more than happy to assist us in any way possible," he said.
There may be a lot of needs right now, but Heidbreder views the struggle to meet those needs as a good thing for the town.
"You have to face some strife or struggle to make progress happen," he said. "As long as we keep that attitude that every challenge that faces the city is a good one, even if it isn't we will make it through this boom, and if there's a bust, we will make it through that and we will still be here. It's just what we have to do."