Does Big Sky need some kind of local government?

Big Sky’s recent $10.3 million TIGER grant award highlights what can be accomplished when community leaders collaborate. But can Big Sky continue its success without an official governing body? Recognizing the time is ripe to look at available options, the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce invited Dan Clark, director of the Local Government Center at Montana State University, to an “Eggs & Issues” discussion on April 4 at Big Sky Resort. 

    Aside from Big Sky incorporating as a town—which Clark noted should have been pursued decades ago—what can be done? Clark discussed the creation of a community council, similar to what unincorporated communities in Missoula County have done. Or, perhaps the Big Sky Resort Tax District could rethink its role, taking on an administrative presence, since “it controls the purse strings.” 

     Clark touched on how a new nonprofit or multi-jurisdictional governing district could coordinate community input to the Madison and Gallatin County commissions. The idea of creating a new county was also tossed around, but both Gallatin and Madison counties would have to vote on and approve that move.

     When an attendee asked Clark whether the idea of moving county lines and putting Big Sky into one county or another was possible, chuckles resounded in the audience. Clark said he hadn’t considered that and would look into the logistics.

     Clark will return to Big Sky on Tuesday, May 15 at the Big Sky Water and Sewer District office from 6-8 p.m., when he’ll present his recommendations to the community.

     The semi-annual joint meeting of the Gallatin and Madison County commissions took place immediately following the self-governance discussion. The first topic addressed was a fitting one—the TIGER grant—which will fund things like turning lanes, pedestrian infrastructure and a number of Skyline transit vehicles. 

     Gallatin County Commissioner Steve White recalled past difficulties in getting a TIGER grant for the Belgrade interchange project by the airport. 

     “What you’ve accomplished with the leadership locally... I can’t underestimate the incredible outcome of that application,” said White. “You’ve got six county commissioners who give you a great round of applause for accomplishing this... This community needed it so badly, and it was a timely solution.”

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