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Hotel Fryburg? Extended stay complex may come to small Bakken town

Press Photo by Mike Hricik The old Fryburg elementary school stands in disrepair on Tuesday afternoon, left neglected since closing in 2000.1 / 2
Submitted Graphic A computer-generated illustration shows what the $12.8 million Morgan Lodge planned for Fryburg may look like.2 / 2

FRYBURG — Companies specializing in housing for oil and gas workers plan to build a $12.8 million extended-stay hotel where the former Fryburg elementary school stands.

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The building would be updated and expanded to build the hotel, dubbed the Morgan Lodge, according to preliminary plans. The hotel complex would feature a restaurant, basketball court, meeting rooms and a small retail outlet for workers.

The Billings County Planning and Zoning Commission will meet on Thursday to review building permits for the two four-story hotel structures, as well as a nearby wastewater treatment facility.

Project managers expect the complex to “dramatically add to the employment and economic revenue generation opportunities of Fryburg and Billings County,” according to a building permit application. An influx of Bakken oil boom workers may kick off a resurgence of new businesses in Fryburg, they added.

Additional development surrounding the hotel may also be announced in the “near future,” pending successful funding, said Andy Mrnak of Pifer’s Auction & Reality. His company, located in Bowman, is managing the school’s land transactions.

Morgan Chase Management of Jackson, Miss., will spearhead planning and building the 318-room, two-building complex.

Louisiana-based Energy Resource Group bought the Fryburg school from Billings County in 2011, but has struggled to find permanent tenants for the land. After years of unsuccessful bids for the property, Mrnak said Energy Resource hopes this will be a done deal.

Bakken Suites of Gulf Shores, Ala., had initially proposed to build a temporary crew camp for oil workers, but the project switched gears this year, realtor Bill Faiman said.

The previous application to establish a crew camp is void, said Stacey Swanson, the Billings County tax director and city assessor.

But Bakken Suites is still playing a role in planning the hotel, said Faiman, who is representing Morgan Chase.

“They’re going to put Fryburg on the map if they go through with this,” he said.

Energy Resource Group has not agreed to a deal to sell the land quite yet. Investors are still in negotiations with Morgan Chase, Faiman said.

“(Morgan Chase managers) are kind of in limbo about whether they want to stick their neck out, as far as buying,” Fairman said. “They have no other reasons not to (buy the property), other than they have to pacify their funding people,” he said.

Pifer’s has listed the price for the school property’s of more than seven acres at $1.2 million, citing its proximity to oil development.

Richard Brown of Morgan Chase wrote in a July 3 letter to Billings County Zoning officials that the hotel would “exceed the standards and provide better living conditions than alternative options currently available.”

Construction is set to begin in August, according to a building permit application, with work ideally ending in March 2015.

The Fryburg school has been closed for more than 10 years, predating the oil boom. Fryburg has served as an industrial train loading site for the Bakken oil transload, which ships fuel on tankers.

Representatives from Energy Resource, Bakken Suites and Morgan Chase did not immediately respond to phone calls from The Press.