- Associated Press - Monday, June 30, 2014

SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) - Clifford Morris says he was born into concrete.

He poured concrete for his father, eventually inheriting the East Texas family business bearing his namesake, Morris Construction, and the town-to-town roving lifestyle that came attached.

A few weeks in San Angelo, a few in Victoria - Oklahoma and Louisiana jobs wrap up his year, and 2015 is already booked with no foreseeable stops home - though Morris doesn’t lament laying his head elsewhere each night.

“I went hungry one time when I was young,” Morris told the San Angelo Standard-Times (https://bit.ly/1msSw4C). “Having a job is a good thing; there’s nothing wrong with having a year planned out.”

The extent of his San Angelo sojourn is driving to the job site, what will soon become a Cavender’s Boot City, and back to his temporary home, a room at the Railhead lodge.

Westbound on Arden Road, a hair past Farm-to-Market Road 2288, a line of matching rooftops is the first visible sign of the Railhead, one of the sparse temporary housing locations around Tom Green County. It’s another effort by local entrepreneurs to meet the increasing housing demand around San Angelo as the oil industry heats up and lodging at a reasonable price becomes scarce.

Dozens of neatly placed identical tan homes have sprouted from the patch of dirt and gravel about 5 miles outside San Angelo city limits. John Brinkman, owner of Railhead Rentals, is building a handful of 12-foot by 28-foot lodgings at a time until he hits his goal of 163.

Nearly 30 of the fully furnished two bedroom units are up and ready, with 20 more nearing completion. Soon, the Railhead will be capable of housing more than 100 people.

Each place comes stocked with a full-sized refrigerator and microwave, Wi-Fi connectivity and a TV mounted on the wall. A cleaning service swings by once a week, never forgetting to freshen any linens.

Brinkman spent nearly 15 years building houses, mostly around San Angelo’s Bluffs neighborhood, with his company, Brinkman Homes. Using the same work crews, he switched to constructing lodges locally and in Sterling City, where he has 26 built.

The San Angelo property lies within the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, meaning the county had no say in its development, Rick Bacon, Tom Green County Precinct 3 county commissioner, said.

Brinkman was permitted to build his lodges before the San Angelo City Council in May voted to tighten the guidelines affecting recreational vehicle and manufactured housing parks. If Brinkman were to develop on another piece of land, it would fall under the subdivision requirements overseen by the city, Roxanne Johnston, city planner, said.

There was a void in the affordable temporary housing market, Brinkman said. The Railhead is cheaper than staying at a hotel and better suited for people working around the area on a short-term basis, he said.

“If someone is leaving their family at home and driving to West Texas, this is at least a way to save a little money to bring back home,” Brinkman said, “They’re missing their kids’ baseball games to be out here. If you’re having to pay all that to stay at a hotel, it’s not even worth it.”

Not much goes on at the Railhead during the daylight, and nights are tame. The steady hum and clatter of construction from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. is the only thing around during many week days.

Morris and his crew have been in town about three weeks. On fresh dirt between two rows of lodges, they fire up a grill every night, opting for protein over microwaveable meals, Morris said.

Many of his neighbors cook outside, though Morris said by 9 p.m., there isn’t a smoking grill nor hardly a soul awake.

“When the food comes off the grill, the party is over,” said James Ford, part of the Morris crew.

Tom Green County Sheriff David Jones said his office has yet to receive a call from the Railhead.

Brinkman said there hasn’t been a single altercation or disturbance at either location in the year and a half he’s been in business. The people living at the Railhead on a monthly or weekly lease understand the privilege of staying at a cheaper temporary housing alternative, he said.

It can be difficult to get sleep at motels and hotels with doors slamming at 2 a.m. and kids splashing around in the pool at night, Morris said. At the Railhead, Morris said he’s probably the last to lay down.

He’s sending a crew of 18 to stay at the lodge next month.

“We’ve moteled it for nine years, and these are the best quiet, peaceful nights out here,” Morris said. “The guys are mostly wore out like we are when we get home.”


Information from: Standard-Times, https://www.sanangelostandardtimes.com



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