Town beginning to look at
impact of Pyramid closing

by Patricia Swan Smith
For the Pathfinder

December 21, 2000
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana

"Where does Seeley go from here" was the big question discussed by thirty people at the forum hosted by the Seeley Lake Community Council at its December 18th meeting.

That question, prompted by the November 13th announcement that Pyramid Mountain Lumber would close its doors, effects approximately 120 Pyramid employees, their families and the entire valley.

A total of 86 students in the valley will be directly affected by the mill closure. The breakdown is as follows: Condon: 6 out of 72 students (8%), Salmon Prairie: 6 out of 12 students (50%), Seeley Lake Pre-School: 5 out of 31 students (16%) Seeley Lake Elementary: 40 out of 222 students (18%) and the Seeley Swan High School: 29 out of 149 students (19%). There is no report for those who are home-schooled.

The first of several forums, facilitated by Seeley Lake Elementary Superintendent Bill Hyde, produced a list of concerns, possible options and information for residents and merchants.

Hyde provided the audience with a list of books dealing with change and resolving community problems: "Who moved my cheese?" by Spencer Johnson; "Leading Change" by John Kotter; "Getting Past No" by William Ury and "Getting it done" by Roger Fischer.

He had everyone write one or two concerns on a sheet of paper and hung them up for more discussion. The list included the following: Seeley's infrastructure, the future of local businesses, an increase in domestic violence and child abuse with loss of income and uncertainty of the future, timber market and industry, respect for private property, other potential uses for state lands, our lifestyle and an economy to support that, economic diversity and development, the possibility of local government, attracting industry/employment that would provide wages above minimum wage, recreation for the kids and use and protection of our natural resources.

While discussing options, it was pointed out that the community needs to work together to see what kind of a vision works for the areaWhat do we want to keep the same and what would we like to see change.

Karen Lyncoln suggested that we seek state, federal and/or private assistance with economic development.

"There are a lot of resources out there we can use," she said.

Doug Mood, HD58 representative and part owner in Pyramid, said that if Yellowstone Park is closed to snowmobiling, Seeley could increase winter activities. Roger Johnson added that if we were going to increase the winter activities, we should also address needed services to support them.

Possible options brought up by the group include: a ski hill, a retirement home/services for the elderly, researching economic diversity and economic development.

A sewer system for the community was mentioned repeatedly. The benefits of a sewer system to new development as well as the quality of water in the area will be explored, discussed further and made available to the public.

Council Member Ron Cox also said he would like to explore small business assistance for the area.

The urgency to explore and act on Seeley's future was expressed by many of the participants.

Penny Copps said there are some Federal Emergency Grants available, but that it was her understanding that there was only about an 18-month window for those grants.

Roger Johnson, President and one of the owners of Pyramid Mountain Lumber, said that while they have purchased a sale of burned timber from the Hamilton area, the market has not changed and the close of Pyramid would take place. Although he said the purchase of that sale will allow the mill to continue operations a little longer. The November announcement predicted closure some time after the first of the year.

He also pointed out that once Pyramid Lumber is closed, the industrial business would be available to purchase and could possibly be a source for jobs in the area.

The group decided it would be a good idea to form an ad-hoc committee to meet and address some of the issues and opportunities brought up at the meeting, develop an agenda for future ad-hoc meetings and forums and talk with local residents.

The following people make up the committee: Penny Copps, Jack Copps, Bill Hyde, Dave Spence, Sally Johnson, Gary Miller, Patty Dunlap-Bartlett, Karen Lyncoln, Stan Nicholson, Colleen Nicholson, Kevin Wetherell and Tim Love. They will meet on January 2nd, and bring their information to the next Community Council meeting/forum on January 15, 2001.

The Pathfinder will continue to cover the forums and keep the community up to date.

Everyone is urged to either attend the January 15th meeting or send written comment about your thoughts and desires for local development, industry, a local sewer system or other infrastructure, uses of available resources or the direction you would like to see taken in Seeley.

Send comments to Pat Swan Smith, P.O. Box 100, Seeley Lake, MT 59868. Comments will not be published without permission of the author. Please include your name, mailing address and telephone number.

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