POLL: Residents want amenities; not a clique that runs the town

Bigfork residents overwhelmingly want

more amenities for their friends and family members, according to poll results released by a group trying to coordinate services to ostensibly make life better for residents.

The Chamber Clique, which once proposed incorporation, then wanted a Community Council and now just wants to coordinate services, posted the online MailChimp poll a few weeks ago and reviewed the results at its Town Hall Meeting on Nov. 3.

As we reported before, Affordable Housing was easily the most important issue for those who took the poll. (See the charts at the right.)

In fact, the top at least the top seven responses are directly related to improving life for regular folks.​​

Chany Okert, who founded the Bigfork Economic Development Group and heads the Bigfork Clique drive, said Affordable Housing wasn't a

Yet Okert could only say that it was a complicated, long-term issue that is beyond the means of their group. They did mention having affordable housing for summertime workers for tourism-based companies.

The comments garnered by the poll were even more pointed.

"Revised central web site for various BF groups & what they do." (The Beagle can and tries to do this.)

"Rich people looking to get richer off the backs of local residents,"

"The seasonal fact that so many residents (with money) are part timers and don't invest in the community enough,"

"Don't Know How to Provide Input into Community Decision-Making,"

"Sending all our money to the county. Year-round residents have to put up with the tourist season and get no benefit from the added tax base. Keep that money close to home, incorporate, and have local control of our future,"

"Downtown Bigfork, the marina, and Wayfarers are perceived as a place you can party and be behave recklessly. Law enforcement is stretched thin during summer months. The county Sheriff's office is super, but geographically it is impossible for them to manage the boating crowds, and reckless visitors in the peak summer months."

"Strategic plan performed/created by outside, unbiased entity with input from all."

"Be a year round community that maintains it identity...our downtown is embarrassing and we have the worst sense of community in the valley."

Someone actually wrote: "We need a community weekly newspaper." Seriously?

Even after seeing the results of the poll, the Community Foundation for a Better Bigfork's Grand Poobah stood up at the Nov. 3 meeting and described how his group spent $100,000 last year on projects, actually like adding parking downtown and connecting the river walk trails to downtown.

The CFBB's website shows no names or no meeting times or locations. There is a phone number that was never answered the dozens of times The Beagle called or left voicemails over the last 30 months.


The individuals who are running these Town Hall meetings are not concerned by these issues.

The Beagle supports bringing money and control closer to the people and the idea of incorporation or a community council is one we support. However, it is our belief that the core group that is trying to coordinate these various agencies are not interested in providing amenities for locals but to continue to use local and tourism revenues to improve amenities for tourists or Snow Birds so these businesses can make even more money during our summer seasons.

As I stated in my last opinion piece (see the link), I can say that I sat in on several meetings where affordable housing was brought up. I once presented an idea that would unite and help the entire community: The VFW has moved into its new location and the former property is for sale. It is seven acres on four tiers with frontage on Hwy 35. The asking price is extremely reasonable and, with the right combination of private-public resources, we could use that as a place for affordable office space and different types of housing running up the hill. I know it can be done because I helped do one before. This would help our local veterans, pull together hundreds of community members and businesses, provide living quarters for folks like our brave volunteer firefighters, singles who are just getting started, and couples who are retiring or newlywed.

Seconds after I said this, Chase Avrill, the son of a local lodge owner and self-anointed prince, actually said out loud, "The last thing I need is more land."

I said, "I thought we were talking about affordable housing for residents." The meeting ended seconds later with Okert pointed at her wristwatch to, shut me down.

The Bigfork Clique hosts another Town Hall Meeting on Feb. 2.

On a side note, We created The Beagle to be a touchstone for our small community and we have gone out of our way to support all local organizations and events that support the regular folks who live here year round.

We started a Community Fair, we raise and donate money, time and resources to community-oriented organizations and we can do much more but we need the help of local businesses to support our efforts. We want businesses who are open all year to serve regular folks. We need organizations to make sure we are getting announcements and events. Basically, we want to support the community but we need support FROM the community.

Please check back for more information about the Nov. 3 meeting and the results of the poll and why I was asked to leave the last Town Hall meeting.

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