Under Fire

New England  superintendent responds to plan for closure

Rural communities throughout North Dakota struggle to provide economic opportunities for their residents.  In today’s new economy, traditional agricultural enterprises and industrial recruitment can no longer be relied upon to bring jobs to rural communities.

Kelly Koppinger 

For the Herald

Once driven by agriculture and manufacturing, most rural economies in North Dakota now rely on low-wage, and frequently part-time, retail trade and services.  Rural community leaders are constantly searching for viable economic alternatives.

Over the past 40 years, the community of New England had been plagued with a shrinking population, high unemployment rate and a mass exodus of ouryoung, talented people from our region. In 2003, the community of New England put together a “Main Street”initiative to address the issues of a stagnant economy and outmigration.

The prison has not only stabilizedour local economy but in fact rejuvenated it. There are no seasonal fluctuations, it is a non-polluting industry, and in many circumstances, it is virtually invisible. We’ve got people that are working here and spending their money here, our communitycan have a Little League team again.

The Dakota Womens Correctional Rehab Center (DWCRC) employs 56 full-time people and 70 people total from southwest North Dakota.

This is extremely bad news for these employees who support their families thanks to the good jobs that this center provides for people across southwest North Dakota.

Some of these workers drive from surrounding towns and counties, but now the closest facility they might be able to transfer to would be in Bismarck. That’s a tough option for a family to consider.

The closure of the DWCRC would have a devastating effect on the whole community, including New England Public School. Since 2008, our enrollment has more than doubled.

In 2008, we had 142 students.

Currently, we house 301 students PK-12. The closure would impact 20 – 25 students, which amount to approximately $250,000 in lost revenue for our school district.

This lost revenue would have to be passed on to our community, which is ultimately going to lose the 56 employees due to the closure.

These tax increases will also put negative pressure on employment.

When individuals and businesses are taxed more, spending and profits will fall, which means businesses may need to make budget cuts.

One of the easiest ways to cut budgets is to lay off employees creating more unemployment within the community.

The Governors desire to “save money” instead causes lost jobs and the loss of a “Main Street” initiative so vital to the community of New England.

This closure could bankrupt New England, not to mention have a devastating effect on the educational outcomes for our children.

We need to have the Governor reconsider his proposal and keep his promises by rewarding those communities who have developed “Main Street” initiatives.

Closing this correctional facility means putting more than 70 people out of work.

These hardworking men and women, and their families will need to start all over.

The same leaders who are cutting these jobs should immediately get to work with the DWCRC staff to talk through job placement, retraining, and education assistance if they close this facility.

They also need to think through plans to utilize the DWCRC facility, perhaps to assist with our ongoing mental health and substance abuse issues that are tearing families apart. 

New England is a small rural community; however, we do have a Main Street and we are proud of our community.

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