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Lauren Donovan, Bismarck Tribune, Published March 03 2013

Worker housing project in Oil Patch makes progress

STANTON, N.D. – Stanton, you will hardly recognize your old school building when a $6 million transformation into a worker hotel is complete.

Sure, you’ll know it from its exterior and location on the end of Main Street.

But inside? The change from a ’50s-era building with long classroom wings into a hotel with front desk, 91 rooms, professional laundry, television lounge and lunch room is way beyond minor plastic surgery, and a lot faster.

Industrial Contractors Inc., of Bismarck, and its parent company, API Group, put the project on a very fast track starting in December.

The company purchased the building this fall to provide a local and stable housing source for the itinerant workers who come from all over for maintenance outages in Coal Country.

The first outage in a year of major outage cycles starts March 28 at the Coal Creek Station across the Missouri River.

The Coal Country Hotel – the name picked in a close contest with the Outage Hotel – will be ready to go. It will be open to the public during the off-outage season.

ICI spokesman Jeff Hammes said the project wasn’t cheap by any stretch, but will still give the company a financial advantage over competitors who will shell out hefty per diems to workers staying in more expensive lodging. Plus, he said, the power plant owners appreciate ICI’s investment in the heart of outage country.

A battery of contractors, led by Nor-Son, also owned by API Group, have made amazing progress in about 12 weeks and counting.

Dennis Korte, Nor-Son supervisor, said he has had up to 80 workers on site, depending on the work.

“The main push was the demolition and the framing,” he said. Some asbestos removal was completed in November and full-on construction started about Dec. 1.

Korte said one company man likened the pace to “building a plane in the sky, it’s going so quickly.”

Other than the pinewood ceilings in the classrooms and the arched ceiling over the gymnasium center court, little remains of the original interior.

The most obvious change is in the gym, where 850 cubic yards of fill was hauled in to bring the space up to grade with the main school building.

No part of the building was left untouched, including the deep basement where the old sooty furnace was hauled out and thousands of yards of data wire was strung for the security, Internet access and communications systems in the building.

Subfloor trenches were dug in to carry water and plumbing to and from every room, new windows were cut in and tons of foam insulation was sprayed against the entire exterior from the inside.

Korte and Hammes figure the project is about 75 percent complete and workers will knock off another 20 percent within the next month.

Furnishings will start to arrive in mid-March, and a motel management group will hire about one dozen people to manage, clean and maintain the facility.

Some people in the community have come by, curious about what’s happening to the building, for so long the heart of the community.

Hammes said he expects there will be an open house for the community, trades’ representatives and the industry so everyone can take a peek at the project.

The renovation adds up to a substantial investment in Stanton, a town whose mainstay livelihood has been related to coal.

Hammes said it would have been a tough go to get a hotel built from the ground up in the short time allotted and he’s appreciative of Stanton’s warm and helpful reception. “The city has been wonderful,” he said.