Williams County road Superintendent Dennis Nelson has a one-word description for the county roads in the oil patch around Williston.
"Terrible," he said.
Last week, the county shut down truck traffic in the oil patch while Nelson pushed his crews to the limit to get the worst roads repaired. They're still terrible, he said.
This week, it was clear that the brief but expensive time-out for the oil industry got everyone's attention. A hastily called meeting Friday in Watford City drew a roomful of state transportation and county officials, road engineers and superintendents and oil representatives to talk about what's next.
Williams County, along with Divide County, achieved the shutdown by setting load restrictions so light only pickups and small service trucks could get around.
At the meeting, the phrase "load restriction" was never raised. Instead, it was replaced with the "private-public partnerships," to describe how counties can work with oil industry to maintain roads.
The oil industry donated equipment and materials to help fix Williams County roads, as it has elsewhere, but Jim Arthaud, a Billings County Commissioner, said the partnerships need a legal framework for liability, licensing and supervision going forward.