Belle Fourche's population continues to grow - KOTA Territory News

Belle Fourche's population continues to grow


The most recent Census numbers show Belle Fourche's population increased 23 percent from 2000 to 2010.

The Census Bureau released an unofficial estimate for 2011; showing another one point five percent increase in the population.

While the exact cause of the boom is hard to pinpoint, those living in Belle Fourche believe this is just the beginning.

"It's been a little busier every day," said Carla McClain, Assistant Manager at Lynn's Dakotamart in Belle Fourche.

McClain says she's noticed a steady increase in customers.

"We've seen a lot of new faces coming in the store, we were just talking about that yesterday morning- how many people we haven't seen before that are shopping now, along with our regular customers. So it's been really exciting to see all the new faces," said McClain.

New faces who make up a part of the recent population boom in Belle Fourche.

But why the increase?

The Mayor of Belle Fourche Gary Hendrickson says part of the answer lies just north of the border.

"The Bakken oil boom has had influence on the 600 people we've increased here since the last census," said Hendrickson.

More people moving to or driving through Belle Fourche spending money.

Which Hendrickson says has led to an increase in sales tax revenue.

"We're up above ten percent in sales tax right now which is really bucking the state average," said Hendrickson.

But the people who are 'moving to town' don't seem to be planning to stay permanently.

People aren't building more homes as the number of building permits is on par with years past.

But Hendrickson says that could soon change.

"It'll show the need for housing here in Belle Fourche. I would have to think that will probably be the avenue that would take off from this economic boom that we're seeing," said Hendrickson.

While the oil boom may be part of the reason behind the population boom, it will eventually come to an end.

But Hendrickson says while it could last another decade, for now Belle Fourche has to capitalize on the momentum.

 "But shoot if we can hang on for these 10 years here and get things started its just exciting times that are going to move on here in Belle Fourche," said Hendrickson.

"We've geared up a little bit, we're trying to get ready for what's coming," said McClain.

While the population has increased dramatically in town, Belle Fourche schools have seen an increase as well.

But Belle Fourche Superintendent Steve Willard says the oil boom doesn't completely explain the increase in student enrollment.

Willard says since at the end of September their yearly count was up eight students from last year.

But since then the school district has enrolled more than 20 new students.

But of those , Willard says only two families say they've moved to work the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota.

But Willard says while the reason behind most of the increase is unknown -this week could change all that; as an estimated 200 workers plan to move to Belle Fourche to work on a natural gas pipeline.

"Even if half of them bring families, that's 100 new families and if they have 1-2 children that's 200 more students, so it could impact us dramatically. So we're just preparing for more kids," said Willard.

Willard says the Belle Fourche schools at the most can accommodate 200 more students in each of the elementary, middle, and high school buildings.


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