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Commissioners approve Sidney Sugars' temporary workforce housing

Sidney Herald of Sidney, Montana

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The Richland County commissioners voted to approve Sidney Sugars' temporary workforce housing on county roads 352 and 125 as long as certain conditions are met in the next six months.

The two temporary workforce housing sites hold up to 58 mobile trailer units in all, 48 southeast of the Sidney Sugars plant on County Road 352, and 10 overflow units east of the plant on County Road 125.

The primary camp was established in 2012, however, because the area is a temporary camp and not intended to be a permanent RV park, it fell into a legal gray area, and the rules and regulations for the camp are just coming to fruition, explained planner Dave DeGrandpre of Land Solutions LLC. "As you know housing prices have surged in this area over the past several years," DeGrandpre said. "It's hard for normal working families to afford a place to live. It's my understanding (these facilities) have been a way to attract and retain employees."

Although Sidney Sugars is the owner of the property, a cleared, beet-growing field, they are not making money off the site, added general manager Dave Garland.

"We're not making a buck off of our employees," Garland told the commissioners. "It's actually costing us quite a bit of money."

Sidney Sugars paid to have the topsoil cleared from the area and gravel put down. The site includes dumpsters and portable toilets that are cleaned weekly There are also electrical hookups and overhead lights at night.

The facilities do not have any hookup to water, wastewater or hard-wired telephone lines, all required by the rules for temporary housing facilities. They were granted variances on all of these points by the Board of Adjustments. Water for the campers is available in town and jugs can be filled up at the Sidney Sugars plant. Showers and toilet facilities are also available at the plant along with the portable toilets. And a hard-wired phone is available at the nearby guard station, as well as the residents' cell phones were taken into consideration for the phone requirement.

The Board of Adjustments did deny two of the eight requested variances. The first will require all trailers in the park to be anchored down in case of high winds or tornadoes. The second will require a visual buffer along eastern side and southern side of the main facility, mostly to stop blowing trash from the dumpsters, which nearby residents had complained of, said DeGrandpre.

The decision came after hearing from a number of residents who stayed in the park testified on the necessity of the facility in the current housing market. Garland also added that it was necessary not only for year-round workers but also for those seasonal workers who are only here for the campaign season.

"Sugar is greatly impacted by the volumes of employees and seasonality of the work," he said. "I've seen great number of excellent employees coming to work here at Sidney Sugars that would never have been able to make that transition (without these facilities)."

Should all the necessary requirements be met, the temporary housing will be approved until March 31, 2018. When and if the housing is no longer needed, it is set to be returned to its prior agricultural use.

'Sugar is greatly impacted by the volumes of employees and seasonality of the work,'

Dave Garland

Sidney Sugars' general manager

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Original Publication Date: July 26, 2015

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