Seasonal workers evacuated from the Red River State Recreation Area are temporarily camping out in the parking lot of Kmart, as American Crystal Sugar and Express Employment Professionals decide what steps to take next.
More than 30 RVs and trailers sit in the parking lot of Kmart, with electrical generators running and workers unsure when they will be back to work. They were relocated to the parking lot by Express Employment Professionals, after the Red River flooded the Sherlock Campground in East Grand Forks, where they were previously staying. That campground is now closed for the season.
“Basically what we’re doing is trying to find a more permanent solution power-wise, because everyone’s running on personal generators or small generators right now,” Scott Lindgren, managing partner at Express Employment Professionals, said on Tuesday, Oct. 15. “We did that to get them through the night last night, and now (we) are looking for a better solution long-term, so they can stick around and help us finish the beet harvest.”
Lindgren said that he was given permission from Hope Covenant Church to use the parking lot.
“Hope Church turned it around pretty quick and said you can use the parking lot if you need to, so we had a place to get them away from the river for safety’s sake,” Lindgren said.
Express Employment and American Crystal Sugar are working together to provide water to the people, as well as gasoline for the generators. A “honey wagon” tanker truck will come around to off load the waste water from the RVs.
Despite the difficult situation, some of the seasonal workers remain hopeful of getting back to work soon.
Bill Shearer, from Buchanan, Mich., is here to work the harvest with his wife, Kathleen. He said he expects to go to work this week in East Grand Forks. They have been working the harvest here for the past 10 years. He expressed praise for Crystal Sugar and Express Professionals.
“They’re working their hind ends off taking care of us,” he said. “They brought some generators from Crookston. Most everybody has got a generator. We’re holding our own. They got a guy that brings us fresh water.”
One of the possibilities for the displaced workers is to relocate to the Grand Forks Campground and RV park.
“We’ve got a couple of options right now, one would be we have the campground south of our office on I-29, and they are making spaces available for as many of the vehicles as want to move out there,” Lindgren said. “For those that don’t want to move out there, we’re setting up larger generators for the people that stay here.”
Lindgren added that the Grand Forks campground had more of the necessary facilities, such as full electrical, bath houses and wi fi.
“It’s been the most challenging season I’ve seen since I’ve been doing this,” Lindgren said.
Shearer said he won’t be going to the Grand Forks campground.
“I would not go out there. I’ve been there twice, and I will not go back,” he said. “We call it the mud hole. One of the guys said he went out there and almost got stuck going down the road from Express down to the campground.”
A meeting and meal was scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, at the Ground Round restaurant, to further discuss living arrangements for the workers.
“Everybody has been working together,” Shearer said. “Yeah, you just pull together and get the job done."