Bad debt in Williston, N.D., a town in an oil region in the western part of the state, has reached $434,000, more than triple last year's total of $121,000.
An estimated $360,000 of the total is owed by individuals who used its ambulance service in 2012, according to John Kautzman, the town's auditor, who says Williston likely will collect just four cents on the dollar for the ambulance debt.
The sharp rise in ambulance service debt is attributed to a jump in job seekers flooding the town. North Dakota is the nation’s second-largest oil-producing state, behind only Texas. Fire Chief Alan Hanson said that the ambulance bill issue largely stems from new arrivals not having health insurance or permanent addresses in the area.
But the oil-related prosperity has translated into the lowest unemployment rate in the country, drawing thousands of newcomers to the region looking for work.
Williston has seen revenue boom since 2008, doubling from an estimated $8.3 million to $17.6 million.