Published March 11, 2022

Fuel Prices Effect Police, Tourism, Recreation

Written by
Kim Fundingsland
| The Dakotan
[Photo: Kim Fundingsland/The Dakotan]
[Photo: Kim Fundingsland/The Dakotan]

MINOT — As everyone who starts an engine knows, the rapidly rising price of gasoline and diesel fuel is concerning. High prices at the pump are causing many motorists to rethink their usual activities and decide where to cut back on miles driven and costly fuel consumption.

The same thought process is happening at various agencies too, such as the Minot Police Department where the annual fuel budget is typically based on an average consumption of the previous three years. However, the recent price hike at the pump is new territory, and happened suddenly.

“With emergency services there’s only so much we can do in regard to how much gas we are using. It’s a necessity,” said Capt. Jason Sundheim, Minot PD. “It’s going to be a cost no matter which way we look at it.”

Unlike other agencies like the Highway Patrol or Sheriff’s Departments that are required to maintain services over large areas, Minot Police operate within a much smaller geographical area – the city limits. Still, the current trend in fuel prices is reaching new heights that have the potential to effect department operations.

“We are kind of limited as to what our options could potentially look like if it got to a point that we’ve truly never seen before.”Capt. Jason Sundheim, Minot PD

“I don’t know what the trigger point is,” said Sundheim. “We are kind of limited as to what our options could potentially look like if it got to a point that we’ve truly never seen before.”

Among possible options is the doubling up officers in patrol cars at certain times of the day, but that creates the potential for longer response times which can be critical for the both the public and law enforcement. For now, if high fuel prices continue, the best option might be shifting some proposed expenditures within the department’s calendar year budget.

North Dakota Department of Tourism

“Obviously, it’s the steepest increase we’ve ever seen,” said Sara Otte Coleman, tourism director, when asked about increased gas prices and the possible effect on tourism this summer. “A recent survey showed 60% of Americans are concerned about the price of gasoline, but 92% said they still plan on traveling.”

But where, and how far? And will that 60% number increase with the price of gasoline?

“When you look at the bottom line, if we can’t attract non-residents, it is a losing proposition for us,” Sara Otte Coleman, ND tourism director

“When you look at the bottom line, if we can’t attract non-residents, it is a losing proposition for us,” stated Otte Coleman.

Otte Coleman said travelers may not do a cross-country trip this year, or even travel by plane, if prices continue to increase. That creates a challenge for her department.

“Our marketing is to get folks to save money in other ways,” said Otte Coleman. “We can promote North Dakota as an affordable destination.”

North Dakota Game and Fish

Game and Fish Department vehicles are part of state fleet operated by the Department of Transportation. As such, prices charged per vehicle to state agencies are subject to adjustment as fuel prices increase. Rising costs will almost certainly impact the Game and Fish budget, which is in first quarter of a two-year biennium.

Very much on the mind of Game and Fish is what the impact of high gasoline prices on the public will be. In particular, those who enjoy boating, fishing, and other outdoor activities.

“When it comes to fishing there are so many variables that go into it,” said Greg Power, NDGF fisheries division chief. “There’s angler success, opportunity, and weather. Driving from Minot to Sakakawea, Bismarck to Sakakawea 15 to 20 times a summer with a boat and 5th wheeler will be incredibly expensive, but a lot can change until summer.”

How much of a price increase it will take to curtail people from participating in outdoor activities, fishing, camping, boating, remains an unknown. During the gas price surge of 2011-14 the number of fishing license sales in the state increased every year. However, gas prices reached a high then of about $3.

“At four dollars I don’t know,” said Power. “It’s not really an issue for a boat motor, but it is for pulling your boat anywhere.”

Power said when COVID-19 hit in 2020 people opted to stay closer to home. The result was record fishing license sales, which very well could be repeated in 2022.

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