Tiny ND town makes exception for ‘man camps’BISMARCK — A tiny North Dakota town will allow a Colorado company to lodge homebuilders in an old schoolhouse, even though it has banned dormitory-style housing for oilfield workers.
By: James MacPherson, The Dickinson Press
BISMARCK — A tiny North Dakota town will allow a Colorado company to lodge homebuilders in an old schoolhouse, even though it has banned dormitory-style housing for oilfield workers.
The Almont City Council last month passed an ordinance banning the so-called man camps that house oilfield workers. The action came after Terry Lorentzen of Grand Junction, Colo., purchased the town’s abandoned schoolhouse for $15,250 and started moving beds into the building, prompting residents’ concerns that the facility would overwhelm resources in the town of about 100 people.
City officials said they had wanted the school — which closed about four years ago because of a lack of children — to be transformed into a restaurant or family apartments, and that the city would have reimbursed Lorentzen.
Council member Gretchen Feland said Friday that the city would allow Lorentzen, whose company specializes in home construction, to house up to nine workers in the 2,450-square-foot building. She said that is the most allowed under the local fire code.
“We’re allowing it after we had a blueprint of his plans,” Feland said. “He has to meet all codes, including occupancy.”
Almont has no police force and insufficient facilities to host a large number of workers, she said.
An oil boom in western North Dakota has spurred a critical demand for housing, including in Almont, which is about 50 miles from any significant oil activity at present.
Lorentzen likened the situation to a chicken-and-egg dilemma.
“If they want housing, they got to allow us a place to live,” Lorentzen said. “We’re construction people — we’re not in the man camp business. We’re not run-amoks and we aren’t going to rape and pillage.”
Feland said it made no difference to the city or its residents whether it was oil workers or construction workers occupying the building. She said the issue was the number of workers.
“We would have let anyone in there,” she said. “We can’t tell people where they can and can’t live.”
Lorentzen said his company is working to get the building ready for occupancy before winter.
“I’m going to move in there, too, as soon as we get a heater in there,” he said.