Meeting puts forth idea of a Community Council

A group of Bigfork-area businesses hopes to​ create a Community Council to create clearer and more productive lines of communication with government agencies and attract more funding in the form of grants, donations and taxes to provide services for area residents.

The group hosted a town hall meeting Saturday that attracted at least 50 community members.

According to a story in the Flathead Beacon, the lone media source that received a press release about the meeting or the issue, the group consists of Jennifer Bach of the Community Foundation for a Better Bigfork, Karin Henion of Glacier Bank, Chuck Shields of PureWest Real Estate, Chase Averill of the Flathead Lake Lodge, and nonprofit consultant Chany Ockert.

Ockert, who presided over the meeting, recently founded a Bigfork Economic Development Committee.

According to the Beacon story, the group already wrote a mission statement without input from community members, or only from select community members. The group did not inform The Bigfork Beagle of the establishment of the economic development committee or the group. In fact, the group might not have a name.


“We appreciate the commitment of those who have built Bigfork into the place we love,” the group wrote in its mission provided to The Beacon. “We want to build on that foundation to maintain the legacy of a vibrant Bigfork. It’s about working even better together. This will involve creating next steps and group agreements. We don’t know what those next steps or group

agreements are. We​​ don’t have an agenda of what they should be. We are promoting the process."

The morning session of the meeting consisted of a presentation from Tracy Timmons of the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation, which helped start the Community Council in Roberts, MT, an unincorporated town like Bigfork.

Timmons first addressed the strategies for getting community groups and individuals, who often squabble, to safely and effectively communicate with one another with the long-term goal of presenting a unified voice to agencies, governments and nonprofits who might provide funding.

Timmons had great success with her plan with the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation which now manages a $1 million annual budget, with 13 staff members and more than 300 volunteers working with 41 programs and organizations, according to Timmons.

The after-lunch session of the meeting was an open house when residents provided input on what the area's "Top Town Challenges" are.

Some of the challenges were: Lack of access to funding

Connectivity (eg. sidewalks), Don't know how to provide input, Creating a sustainable future, Affordable housing, Economic opportunities for younger people, Seasonality and full-time amenities, Avoid dying as a town, Growth and open space plan and Branding.

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