Public officials from four Ford County towns joined the Ford County commissioners for a public officials exchange Tuesday evening.
The meetings, which are scheduled quarterly, are facilitated by the Dodge City /Ford County Development Corporation.
"We developed these meetings as part of a strategic planning process and we've been holding them for the past two or three years," said Joann Knight, director of the development corporation.
Officials heard an update about the county's transportation system.
Numbers of people using the system are up. In Dodge City, numbers have more than doubled within Dodge City. Plans are being made to establish fixed stops based on frequent usage and the service will be expanding into Gray County.
Officials also heard from Brady Pollington, business recruitment coordinator for the development corporation, regarding oil and gas activity.
Several agencies and businesses have been working in preparation for an anticipated increase in oil and gas exploration in the area.
"The county is working on roads and Victory Electric is working on electrical service to potential sites," Pollington said.
"I think people expected massive growth right away," he said, "But the reality is there is a learning curve for these companies as they learn how to contact the oil that's in the shale."
Three companies, Sandridge, Chesapeake and Tug Hill Operating, have leased nearly 5 million acres in the Mississippian field.
"Sandridge is looking at 60 to 70 locations in this area, which will keep three to four rigs operating," Pollington said.
The Kansas Corporation Commission's Web site lists 109 intent to drill notices in Ford County currently.
"Dodge City is in the middle of the target area and the numbers are huge," Pollington said.
"We're actively marketing the business and industrial park in Dodge City and we expect to announce new activity after the first of the year," Knight said.
Officials were updated on housing in Ford County by Leslie Lomas.
"We're just scratching the surface because we were so far behind," Lomas said.
Lomas said developers are being careful not to overbuild.
"What's going up is being sold, and that doesn't include the oil and gas activity. New rentals are filling fast," she said.
Interfaith Housing will be starting an abandoned housing program, beginning with the Hinkel House owned by the city.
In addition, there is housing construction in Wright and rural housing development in Spearville.
Officials expressed continued concern about potential changes in tax laws and how those changes will affect county budgets and property taxes.
"These meetings keep communication open and they've inspired some shared projects, such as an inspection program in Spearville handled by the Dodge City inspections team and the creation of a Pride program and renovation of a park in Ford," Knight said.
Page 2 of 2 - Knight continues to feel that the meetings are an important educational tool for public officials.
"With new elected officials on every commission, this is a way for them to find out what's happening in the area," she said.