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Almont officials ban 'man camp' housing

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Officials in Almont approved an ordinance that would prevent the construction of "man camp" housing, a prospect they say could overwhelm local resources.

City Auditor Lynne Jacobson said the move was prompted by the purchase of a school building and the rumor that its new owner would turn it into dormitory-style housing for workers, something common in oil-producing counties.

"We've just heard rumors, nobody has confirmed with him that this is (his) intent," Jacobson said.

Regardless of the owner's plans, city council members passed an ordinance Monday evening that would prohibit such a development.

Jacobson said the measure bans housing in which "multiple, unrelated individuals share common rooms for purposes of employment outside of Almont."

Council members approved it unanimously.

Jacobson said their fear was that Almont is too small to host a large number of workers.

"We don't have the resources to have all of those people there," she said. "We don't even have a full-time restaurant. They can't eat breakfast there."

The town is home to around 80 people and has no full-time police officer and no businesses that provide laundry, meals or other support services.

"One of our biggest concerns is security," Jacobson said. "The nearest officer is in New Salem," 14 miles away.

The building that prompted the move is a 2,400-square-foot structure that was built around 20 years ago as a school. It consists of four classrooms and two bathrooms, according to Frank Melchior, president of the Almont Rural Fire Protection District.

The fire district became the owner when Almont's school consolidated with New Salem's schools. Melchior said that sale has not been finalized and the deed has not yet been transferred.

The buyer of the building is Terry Lorentzen of Glen Ullin, Jacobson said. Lorentzen did not return two calls before and after the council meeting.

Facilities made to house work crews on a short-term basis, commonly called man camps or crew camps, have met with resistance in oil counties.

Mountrail and Williams counties recently put moratoriums on new crew camps, and Williams County officials approved higher fees for building permits for the housing units.

Jacobson said Almont officials are worried that the strains on infrastructure associated with the oil industry are spreading south and east to Morton County.

"It appears that it's creeping there," she said. "Here it comes."

(Reach reporter Christopher Bjorke at 250-8261 or chris.bjorke@bismarcktribune.com.)

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