I never thought my hometown of Sidney, MT would make the National news because of a missing math teacher. Things like that just don’t happen in the small, sleepy town that I grew up in. My parents are buried there and lived almost all their lives there.
Sherry Arnold was out for a morning run and never came home. She is a distant relative of mine. Her Grandmother and my Grandfather were brother and sister. Not sure what relation that makes us. My prayers are with her family and with her.
Then this morning the Triangle burned down. This night club was an institution in Sidney since before I was born. For very special occasions Dad would take us out to dinner at the Triangle so we could have their baby sirloin special. So many special memories there.
But things change.
Sidney is in extreme eastern Montana, only 11 miles from the North Dakota border. I know some of you have read about the Bakken Oil boom that has hit Williston, ND. The Bakken is a formation of shale source rock covering about 200,000 square miles of North Dakota, Montana and Saskatchewan. It is currently the largest known reserve of light sweet crude in North America.
Sidney is 50 miles from there. There is no available housing in Williston, no campgrounds, no motels because of the oil workers that have come into that area. A lot of that falls over into Sidney. You can’t find a house to buy or rent or an RV site anywhere in Sidney either.
Places like McDonalds, the grocery stores, the shops, the restaurants cannot find enough workers because every one can make so much more money in the oil fields. McDonald’s was offering $11 an hour and still couldn’t hire anyone.
The population of Sidney has increased from less than 5,000 people to more than 6,000 people. The water and sewage systems cannot handle this great influx in such a short time. Bars are doing a booming business. Definitely not how I remember my hometown.
DiFonzo said he can feel the growing pains in Sidney — a town of about 5,000 only 10 miles from the border with North Dakota — as people pour in from out of town, chasing the money brought by the Bakken oil boom.
Police Chief, Frank DiFonzo has seen it before — the last time there was an oil boom in the 1980s. "We have a lot of activity now at this part of the state." "A lot of out-of-state people are here to work, and locals don't know them or recognize them."
The influx has increased crime, and Chief DiFonzo said officers are responding to more bar fights, domestic violence and drunken driving. "We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg," he said.
My Dad was Mayor of Sidney for many, many, many years. He was Mayor during the boom of the 1980’s and I know it broke his heart to see the crime that came to his beloved city. I’m glad he’s not here anymore to see it happen again.