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Fryburg School to become worker housing

Fryburg will be seeing about 200 new faces in town after the Billings County Commission recently gave the go-ahead for a crew housing facility to be incorporated on an old school property.

A special use permit was granted to Energy Resource Group to construct a 200-person training and housing facility, as long as the company adheres to a recent amendment to the zoning ordinance.

The amendment orders that the facility will have an on-site security plan, contact information for every resident, emergency response plan, a no alcohol policy, adequate off-street parking and other various stipulations.

There was no language in the ordinance defining crew housing before the amendment was signed on Aug. 15.

This is the first facility of its kind proposed in the county and Zoning Board Chairman John Tczap said it was important to get some regulations for crew housing.

The permit will have to be renewed every year, which will keep the companies honest, Tczap said.

"The feeling was that if we did that and they didn't follow through with their proposal, we could remove them," he said. "It will make them be serious about what they propose and stick behind it."

The facility will incorporate modular homes that will be connected to an existing school building, Energy Resource Representative Marc Barra said.

Preliminary work will begin in August and construction will likely begin by early September, Barra added. He said there should be no problems adhering to the regulations.

"It has been a great working relationship between the Zoning Board and Commission," he said, adding that his company worked in tandem with the county in developing the ordinance.

Billings County Commissioner Mike Kasian said this facility could alleviate some of the housing shortage in the area.

"The oil field is booming and we are just trying to get some living quarters for these workers," he said.

Fryburg resident LaDonna Hutzenbiler said she was indifferent about the crew camp, but her daughter Crystal Calkins had some


Calkins said she understands there will be safety measures within the structure, but she was worried about safety outside of the camp. She lives across the street from the school and is usually alone with her children, she said.

"Once they leave the camp, then what?" Calkins said, adding that Fryburg does not have police or emergency services.

Barra said there will be a zero tolerance policy for misbehavior. He added that the facility will have an extensive security system that will notify when workers enter the building, leave the building, eat meals and workers will be under constant surveillance.

Overall, the community is embracing the worker lodge, Tczap said.

"I have gotten input from locals that said they were dead against it at the proposal, but after discussion have changed their mind," he said.

The camp will incorporate the old Fryburg School. The school shut down in 2000 due to dwindling enrollment and after maintenance costs grew too substantial it was sold in April.

Barra said there are no plans to alter the gymnasium and that it will be available for use by the public free of charge.

"The school still belongs to the community," Barra said. "Though it doesn't make good business sense, we aren't going to touch it (the gym)."

The project will cost between $6 million and $7 million dollars, Barra said.