Medora debates oil housingMEDORA — Residents engaged in heated conversation over a proposal to lease motel rooms to energy industry workers during a public input meeting organized by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation at the Rough Riders Hotel Thursday evening.
MEDORA — Residents engaged in heated conversation over a proposal to lease motel rooms to energy industry workers during a public input meeting organized by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation at the Rough Riders Hotel Thursday evening.
TRMF President Randy Hatzenbuhler said the foundation wants to gather the community’s input before deciding whether to lease the 216-room Bunkhouse Motel.
“There’s an awful lot of folks thinking something has happened already, but nothing has happened,” Hatzenbuhler said.
Target Logistics has showed the most interest in locating crews in Medora and partnering with companies to do so could bring more money and opportunities to the area, he said.
“I don’t necessarily know everyone in the community will get the potential increases that you listed and most of those are based on profit margins,” said resident Amanda M. Oster. “But money doesn’t only contribute to a good life. There’s deeper more spiritual, more human elements to what it means to live.”
She added living in a confined space such as the Bunkhouse isn’t a good quality of living.
“I don’t know if we’re perpetuating something that isn’t healthy to begin with,” Oster said.
However, Hatzenbuhler said many area energy industry employees have nowhere to live.
“These people are going to be living in cars,” he said. “Where’s the human concern? It’s not like they’re not going to need it.”
The Bunkhouse Motel was a crew camp in Watford City that was brought to Medora and turned into a motel in the 1980s, Hatzenbuhler said.
Because of the facility’s age, it will need to be replaced eventually anyway, he added.
Some voiced concerns over infrastructure needs in the city and an already apparent increase in crime due to an influx of people.
“It’s not the man camp I worry about it’s what happens around it when the guys aren’t in the camp,” said Wally Owen, who lives near Medora.
Residents wondered how emergency services and needs such as food and other basic supplies would be addressed.
Hatzenbuhler said plans for those needs would have to be in place before TRMF would lease out the Bunkhouse.
Others called Medora a much needed refuge from energy impacts seen in the area.
“People love to come to Medora because it’s different from their everyday lives,” Theodore Roosevelt National Park Superintendent Valerie Naylor said. “They come here and they see a little town where nobody from the outside world lives.”
She added putting 400 to 500 people in the town would quadruple the population.
“That’s shocking to a community,” Naylor said.
Residents also fear it would negatively impact the tourist industry that Medora thrives on.
Hatzenbuhler said rooms would be replaced by a new or expanded facility so tourists and those who work in Medora would have a place to live.
He and Van Larson, a Grand Forks resident who stays in Medora seasonally, said leasing the motel would be a means of organizing the impact, rather than having camps going up across the countryside.
“You can’t change what’s happening because our government would not allow it,” Larson said. “By having some sort of management, you do have that control.”
Hatzenbuhler said if TRMF decides to lease rooms, it will likely be about a year before they would be used.
He added concerns of the community will be taken into consideration when contemplating proposals.