The Sidney City Council took care of business Monday evening, approving a sewer rate increase while acquiring details on a new subdivision and learning of a new oil well the city and private residents will collect checks from.

That’s right. The city of Sidney will have its own oil well after the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation approved temporary spacing of an oil well north of Sidney. Mayor Bret Smelser, a board commissioner, said he excused himself from voting and lobbied for it. 

The oil well could generate some $14,000 a year for the city if the well produces between 200-250 barrels a day based on $75 a barrel. Residents themselves would see yearly checks of $50-100. The approved oil well application docket contains dozens of pages with residents’ names who will receive an oil check. Smelser said he’ll donate his to the city of Sidney and start a campaign for others who choose to do the same. Funds from the well, he said, will go toward employee salaries and infrastructure expenses. 

The oil well has been in the works since the 1980s, having been spurred on by Elliott Oil Corp. owners. 

Smelser said XTO Energy, the company behind the oil well, has invested more money in upfront costs than any other well, “so I want to thank XTO for doing this project.” 

Also on Monday, council members heard more details on plans for a new subdivision, The Homestead, west of Pheasant Run Subdivision, whose developers look to annex in 28 acres into the city with 15 of those dedicated to commercial and the rest residential. While city officials have proposed a walking path, developers and brothers Don and Fred Sterhan say they question the security as strangers walk through the neighborhood. 

“In theory it sounds nice, but if you got people coming through your neighborhood, hey, who are you and why are you here? I just think there are some concerns here that we could face there as well if anybody come and go as well. Is that what we want in our neighborhoods?” Don Sterhan, president of Mountain Plains Equity Group, said. 

There are still opportunities to talk details; a public hearing is scheduled for the next council meeting, Jan. 7, 2013. 

Among other business items: 

• Resolution 3601 was approved, raising sewer rates from $8 to $12, raising the combined water and sewer monthly rates from $26.50 to $30. However, to receive grants to pay for the sewer lagoon project, residents must pay about $100 a month. “Little old ladies are starting to complain, but, you know, we can’t blame this all on oil and gas,” Smelser said, because rates were kept “unreasonably low” for too long a period. 

•The council renewed a six-month conditional use permit for Ron Terry Construction in the Northview Subdivision, but with stipulations. Just before approving the permit, making it retroactive to Nov. 7 when the permit actually expired, the council learned the company, approved for only four RVs, actually have seven. The city sent a letter Oct. 24 to let them know only four are allowed, but they apparently remained. The council decided to approve the permit subject to the conditions. 

• Wibaux spent $17,000 on its growth policy while Dickinson spent $390,000, but for Sidney, officials are looking at spending $40,000-50,000 on the six-year update, focusing on land use, infrastructure and transportation. The city appears to be working with the county to update both policies. 

• The council approved Resolution 3602, adopting the preliminary engineering report for the sewer lagoon, which recommends an aerated lagoon with irrigation for a 2012 cost of $12.5 million and $13.8 million in 2015. 

• The council approved nominations for board members of the Tourism Business Improvement District comprised of six people who are in hotel management in Sidney. The board is in charge of allocating funds collected from the $1.50 bed tax dedicated to bringing visitors to the city. The council has final say on how the funds are spent. A preliminary budget was also approved with conditions that a more specific plan will emerge in one to two months.

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