Williams County cracks down on crew camps where homicides occurred
WILLISTON -- Oil field crew camps where two homicides and a stabbing have occurred need to beef up security or be forced to shut down, according to Williams County officials.
The Williams County Planning and Zoning Commission is now requiring the Capital Lodge and Wanzek camps, both near Tioga, to provide proof of their security procedures, undergo inspections and re-apply for permits to operate in six months.
The Wanzek camp was the site of a fatal shooting on Aug. 4, 2012. Capital Lodge had a fatal stabbing on March 17 and a stabbing that left one man injured on Sunday.
"It puts so much fear in the people that live here," said Tate Cymbaluk, chairman of the planning and zoning commission that met for four hours late into Thursday evening.
Williams County Commission Chairman Dan Kalil said he thinks the Wanzek camp should be closed because firearms are prohibited from crew camps while knives are more difficult to keep out.
"I firmly believe that when a murder happens in a camp it should be shut down," said Kalil, who made an unsuccessful motion for the Wanzek camp to be reviewed again in three months.
The full county commission will vote on the two camps, as well as several new requirements for temporary housing, on June 11.
Alan Spencer, owner and operator of the camp that is leased to Wanzek Construction of Fargo, said he's had the sheriff and a private investigator review the camp's security policies since the shooting.
The camp has a licensed security guard and emergency medical technicians on staff who responded within minutes of the incident, which involved employees of a subcontractor who had been at the camp for four days and didn't get along, Spencer said.
"It was an awful, awful, awful event that I wish we could have prevented," Spencer said.
No Wanzek employees were involved with the incident, a company official said at the time.
Mike Boudreaux, CEO of Capital Lodge, said the camp has a secured entrance, two security vehicles roving at all times and hundreds of cameras. The camp recently added a security guard to walk around the premises and officials continue to review their policies.
"We are very concerned," Boudreaux said.
Both camps said they have policies against weapons and alcohol and require background checks for residents.
Commissioners could give the camps 30-day notices to vacate if they don't meet the conditions of their permits, Cymbaluk said.
"There needs to be some accountability and responsibility," he said.
In the August shooting, Victor Scott Lamont of Texas is charged with murder for the death of Gerald Schild, a race car driver from Texas. Lamont also is charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting Arkansas man Travis Lomax.
The March stabbing involved longtime friends from Michigan who had been drinking in Tioga before returning their cabin at Capital Lodge. Ryan Neil Anderson is charged with murder in connection with the death of Christopher King. Both cases are scheduled for trials early next year.
Details of Sunday's stabbing remain unclear. A man who has not been identified by authorities was found walking in the camp with a stab wound, but it's not certain where the stabbing occurred, said the Williams County Sheriff's Office.
Planning commissioners also took steps Thursday to begin phasing out temporary housing.
If approved by the full commission, people would no longer be able to live in campers scattered throughout the county but would be restricted to designated RV parks after Oct. 31.
Commissioners said they will not approve any new crew camps and existing camps will not be able to expand. Camps need to re-apply for permits at least every two years, some more often, as commissioners evaluate the need for temporary housing.
"There's always going to be a place for man camps," Cymbaluk said. "At what level, I don't have that answer."
Camps also would be required to meet certain inspection criteria, pay a $400-per-bed fee and provide a bond to protect the county if the area needs to be cleaned up.
The availability of housing in Williams County continues to be a moving target, said Cymbaluk, a Realtor. The city of Williston has approved permits for more than 800 new apartment units this year and is reviewing applications for another 200 units that are proposed, according to the Williston Building Department.
Williams County resident Penny Soiseth, who lives a half-mile from a crew camp, said commissioners' actions reflect what residents have been wanting, particularly the restrictions for RVs.
"It's time to bring families in," Soiseth said.