When oil prices rose over 100 dollars per barrel and production in the Uintah Basin took off, Roosevelt City filled to near capacity. New homes were being sold as soon as they were built. Highway 40 was full of oil and gas trucks, industry workers spent money in downtown shops, and hotels were full to capacity. Private companies and citizens donated to rebuild the city pool. City revenue rose significantly and companies in the community were thriving.
When prices dropped in 2014, the game changed overnight for the city and its residents. Sales and transient room tax revenue dropped by over 30 percent each, and funding for major city projects became questionable.
Ballard is a small town abutting Roosevelt on the Uintah side of the county line. Union High School literally straddles the line, and the separation between the two towns is nearly indistinguishable. However, Ballard has a significant amount of open, available land east of the county line. This land has attracted several new businesses, and it is likely to attract more because land is readily available.
Many Roosevelt residents shop in Vernal because of the larger variety of retail. In boom times, this leakage is less difficult to endure—revenue increases significantly from the surrounding shops, restaurants and businesses. However, when the market busts and people shop more on a “needs” basis, Roosevelt is left with significantly less sales tax revenue relative to the area’s sales revenue potential.
Roosevelt has a limited amount of land available for continued development along Highway 40, its primary thoroughfare. While some land still exists in the southwest “stem” of town towards the airport, it’s largely built out with oil and gas service companies, equipment sale companies, repair shops, and a hotel. All of the land in downtown is taken by shops, gas stations, restaurants, car dealerships, offices, and stores. This lack of open land on the primary road makes new development for companies difficult.
Roughly 4,000 people live in the unincorporated areas surrounding Roosevelt City. Despite being outside city boundaries, most of these people use city services and are considered part of the community. This creates a false perception of Roosevelt’s size as smaller than it actually is. City leaders are concerned Roosevelt is overlooked by some companies and potential retail because their official population is smaller than the actual size of the community when contiguous developments are included.
This large population outside of city limits also creates significant infrastructure for which the city is financially responsible. Infrastructure like that can create significant costs; if the city is not deliberate in setting service fees, it could cause future fiscal problems.
Planning in the boom & Bust
Roosevelt grows and shrinks with the price of oil. This raises questions about how and when to make decisions as a community. Community leaders encourage residents to help develop plans, but the swings of the local economy significantly impact the input and perspective of community members.
Residents’ attitudes can change dramatically. Support for projects may be significantly higher when city revenues are high and residents have work opportunities. Conversely, when employment falls in the bust, the community is more likely to have reservations towards community projects and opportunities. Community leaders have difficult decisions about how and when to plan, and how and when to implement those plans.
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