Features

Extreme makeover

"Extreme makeover" Continued...

The recent U.S. oil and gas boom has been made possible by new technology that allows workers to drill deep into the earth, down and then horizontally, and crack open shale rock to release oil and gas using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Once a well is drilled and fitted with casing, Tarbox and his co-workers pump cement around it.

Wells can be miles deep, including the curve at the bottom: “I think the highest I’ve ever pumped was 20,000 feet.” After a well is drilled and fracked, workers top it with a pump jack. Much of the oil is shipped to the Gulf Coast on rail cars.

“THIS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME TOWN”: A man is detained by Williston police while being questioned in regard to an incident in downtown Williston.
Ken Cedeno/Corbis/AP
“THIS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME TOWN”: A man is detained by Williston police while being questioned in regard to an incident in downtown Williston.
“THIS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME TOWN”: A man sleeps on the floor of Concordia Lutheran Church in Williston (the church has opened its doors but can only accept 29 guests because of regulation; most nights the church is forced to turn people away).
Kristoffer Finn/Laif/Redux
“THIS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME TOWN”: A man sleeps on the floor of Concordia Lutheran Church in Williston (the church has opened its doors but can only accept 29 guests because of regulation; most nights the church is forced to turn people away).
“THIS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME TOWN”: An oil flare burns near Williston.
Danny Wilcox Frazier/Redux
“THIS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME TOWN”: An oil flare burns near Williston.
“THIS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME TOWN”: Advertisement for new homes.
Mark Ovaska/Redux
“THIS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME TOWN”: Advertisement for new homes.
“THIS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME TOWN”: Men line up before sunrise looking for work.
Kristoffer Finn/Laif/Redux
“THIS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME TOWN”: Men line up before sunrise looking for work.
“THIS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME TOWN”: Because housing is in short supply, many workers in Williston are forced to live out of their cars.
Kristoffer Finn/Laif/Redux
“THIS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME TOWN”: Because housing is in short supply, many workers in Williston are forced to live out of their cars.

Previous   Next

Problems have grown along with Williston’s population. Newcomers are disproportionately young men, oftentimes single, creating a gender imbalance. Men prowl in bars for dates, and locals say crime, prostitution, and the strip club business have grown, with dancers regularly flying in from out of state. Some longtime residents are leaving.

Ted “Frog” Krogen and his wife Marilyn, both 67, were born and raised around Williston, only leaving for about a decade while Frog served in the military, and returning in the late ’70s.

“We moved back here because it was a good place to raise kids. Not anymore,” said Frog, wearing black suspenders and eating ketchup over scrambled eggs at Gramma Sharon’s Family Restaurant, a three-decade-old establishment. With housing so expensive, the couple’s daughter, in her 30s, lived with them until recently. “We used to leave our door unlocked,” Frog said, but after the boom they forbade their daughter from going out at night alone. “Women have been followed home from nightclubs and raped,” Marilyn added.

For the Krogens, the solution was to get out of town: They moved to Sturgis, S.D., several months ago, and returned this week to clean out and sell their three-bedroom house. After putting it on the market for two days, someone bought it for several thousand dollars above their asking price.

The Krogens said many of their friends have already moved away. “This will never be the same town,” bemoaned Frog.

Domestic violence has increased too, according to Bonnet, who directs the Family Crisis Shelter in Williston, the only shelter for domestic and sexual abuse victims in the North Dakota oil patch. Since 2008, the number of adults and children staying at the shelter has tripled.

The Williston Herald reported the Williston Police Department gets an average of two calls a day for domestic violence situations. The calls increased 10 percent from 2011 to 2012, and as of October were on track to increase another 10 percent in 2013. An annual report provided to WORLD from the Williston Police Department indicates local 911 calls doubled between 2010 and 2012. Arrests for felonies and misdemeanors increased 40 percent in 2012 alone.

Crime in North Dakota overall, a historically safe state, ticked up 8 percent in 2012. Drugs are running in Williston: In November federal officials announced they were adding Williams County to their High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program.

While some see Williston’s rapid growth as a problem, others see opportunity. The town is building a $70 million recreation center with indoor tennis courts and a golf simulator. Instead of coming into town alone a few weeks at a time, many men are moving their wives and children here permanently. Although Williston’s increase in children has been overwhelming to public schools (they’re renting “portable classrooms” to handle the lack of space), pastors see an opportunity to reach young families or single workers looking for new community or spiritual direction.

“We’re tripling our square footage,” said Mike Skor, the lead pastor of New Hope Wesleyan Church, which has installed huge steel beams in the ground for a facility that will include an indoor playground and coffeehouse. “Just our middle school and high school ministry—every week it seems we have a record number of kids. It just keeps climbing.”

Ashley Olinger was a logger in northern British Columbia, Canada, before he moved to Williston in 2010 to become the senior pastor of Cornerstone FBC. The Southern Baptist church began building a new facility with a sloping 300-seat auditorium in a Williston field in 2011. Now the facility is surrounded by a new medical clinic, a new Motel 6, and a row of new apartments.

“Our church has gotten drastically younger in the last couple of years,” Olinger said. “Between 25 and 30 percent of our church is under 4 feet tall.” Since local kids sometimes live in camper trailers or apartments, Cornerstone opens its building on Thursday mornings to give moms and kids space to play. Every second Sunday the church hosts lunch, with much of the food provided by a local man camp, to provide fellowship for its members or for workers in town without their families.

Comments

You must be a WORLD member to post comments.

    Keep Reading

     

    Good credit

    Competency-based programs offer college credentials without the debilitating cost

     

    Soaring sounds

    Three recent albums highlight the aesthetic and emotional range…

     

    Numbers matter

    Understaffing the U.S. effort in Iraq from the beginning…

    Advertisement