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Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority contracts government center to get wheels turning

Missoula Trail
Posted at 1:56 PM, Dec 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 12:51:54-05

MISSOULA — In its first order of business, the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority on Tuesday secured the advice of the Local Government Center at Montana State University to help it develop the panel’s bylaws and other governing issues early next month.

Missoula County commissioners agreed to fund the contract with $2,000 budgeted earlier this Fiscal Year for the cause.

“We are coming up on a date in early January where we will schedule the full authority for its first board meeting,” said Commissioner Dave Strohmaier. “We have to get this off the ground.”

A dozen participating counties spanning Montana from east to west officially formed the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority in early December, marking the first time such an organization has ever been formed in the state.

The authority’s official formation culminated an effort that began last October. With the authority officially established, it will tackle the mundane but necessary steps of organizing the board’s officers, bylaws and other governing matters.

To help with that effort, Missoula County contracted Dan Clark with the Local Government Center at MSU. The authority’s first few meetings will be held virtually.

“We’re going to bring Dan Clark on board to help facilitate the first one or several sessions of the board of directors of the rail authority,” Strohmaier said. “This is in recognition that we have no appointed officers of the rial authority.”

Amtrak ran the North Coast Hiawatha across Montana’s southern tier from 1971 to 1979. The route included Miles City, Billings, Livingston, Bozeman, Missoula and Paradise, among other communities.

“It will be helpful to have (Clark) working on helping with the agenda,” said Dori Brownlow, the county’s director of development. “It’ll be a virtual meeting, but hopefully we can move to in-person down the road.”