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Mobile clinics currently illegal in Williston: City Commission may lift current moratorium that impedes progress of proposed mobile clinics

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WILLISTON — Sanford Health plans to bring two multimillion-dollar mobile clinics to the Bakken to meet health care needs, but right now they would not be legal in Williston.

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The Williston City Commission has a moratorium on any new mobile businesses until city leaders can establish planning and zoning guidelines for them.

The city implemented a six-month moratorium last fall and recently extended it through September while the issue is studied by a committee, said Nick Vasuthawawat, code compliance officer for Williston.

That moratorium would apply to a new Sanford initiative announced last week that aims to bring health care services to oil industry workers in western North Dakota and eastern Montana. The effort, called O.P.C. mobileMed, will include two clinics on wheels that will cater to oil companies and their subsidiaries.

“Under the current  moratorium, they wouldn’t be (permitted) because they weren’t officially          recognized as a pre-existing mobile operation,” Vasuthawawat said.

But the City Commission could lift that moratorium any time, said Commissioner Tate Cymbaluk, who is on the committee studying the issue.

“Those aren’t the people we’re after,” Cymbaluk said of Sanford. “It’s the guy selling blankets taking up the corner. Those are the ones that need some serious parameters put around them.”

Williston has seen an increase in mobile businesses wanting to operate in the city, such as mobile coffee vendors or mobile tool shops, Cymbaluk said. City leaders are discussing guidelines to govern mobile businesses and potential fees to support city services and even the playing field with “brick and mortar” business owners, he said.

Cymbaluk said he hopes the committee can meet and develop the guidelines soon so the moratorium could be lifted earlier than September.

Sanford’s new initiative will launch in Watford City, likely in June, with future locations determined based on oil companies that request the services, said Stephanie Murdock, Sanford’s enterprise vice president of corporate occupational medicine services.

A request has not been made for a mobile unit to go to Williston, Murdock said. If that happens, Sanford will work with city leaders, she said.

The project, which also involves a modular clinic in Watford City, is costing Sanford an initial investment of $2.7 million along with $4.8 million in annual operating expenses.

The mobile clinics will provide work- and non-work-related health care services, such as employment physicals and care for sore throats, coughs and other illnesses. Sanford also will do lab work and X-rays, and provide access to telemedicine, emergency transportation or referrals for advanced injuries.

Williston has a mobile veterinary clinic that is exempted from the moratorium because it operated before leaders began discussing a new ordinance. A mobile chiropractic clinic also was exempted, but the owner left town last fall, citing frustrations with the city. The city previously established a ban on food trucks.

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Amy Dalrymple

Amy Dalrymple is a Forum News Service reporter stationed in the Oil Patch. She can be reached at adalrymple@forumcomm.com or (701) 580-6890.

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