Monday was the kick off for the MEDA’s (Montana Economic Development Association) listening session and tour of Lockwood. The assessment brings outside experts from around the state to come listen and tour the area of Lockwood. With three main questions in mind, What is Lockwood’s greatest asset and strength, What is Lockwood’s great challenge or issue and what do you envision for Lockwood in the next 2, 5, 10 and 20 years? The experts, in their own field, listened to the attendees at the meeting to their comments and at the end provided a few follow up questions to the group for clarification. Tonight’s goal was to listen to all the citizen’s, residents and people that attended the meeting.
There were wide ranging comments for the strength of Lockwood. As one attendee mentioned, the Lockwood School District is a strength, the amount of about 8,000 residents that live in the area. Additional strengths ranged from the individuality of Lockwood residents and the lifestyle of being able to be independent. Another person mentioned the ability to be able to have more than 3 chickens while others touted the economical strengths of having the railroad and two interstates join in the vicinity while yet another person voiced his position that he can live outside of town yet live near a big city just miles down the road.
As there were many strengths positioned tonight, there were just as many concerns regarding the betterment of Lockwood. As roads, sidewalks, trails and infrastructure were among the most prevalent, others concerns ranged mainly from growth. At one time, Lockwood was originally an agricultural community outside of town that has increased in residents and businesses. With that and the growth in numbers, provides challenges and problematic issues facing the Lockwood area for residents. Not only from an individual district level like the Lockwood Water & Sewer District but also to the Yellowstone County Officials level.
As many residents voiced their respectful concerns, some comments stirred the pot enough to get an applause as a result of their comment. As some residents envisioned the future with street lights and better roads in the next 2 years, others envisioned better infrastructure for roadways and services in 5 years while the long term views was a city governance, incorporation of Lockwood, a high school, or even the Billings bypass completion.
In a previous session today, one of the MEDA experts asked a follow up regarding if the county government was holding up the progress of Lockwood. One unique perspective from an attendee mentioned that even though there are many individual entities for Lockwood (School, Water & Sewer, Irrigation and Transportation District) there is no one specific group that has the authority/jurisdiction to speak for the whole of Lockwood and its implementations as that lies within the jurisdiction of the Yellowstone County Commissioners. He continued, its not that the County government is holding Lockwood back, but that the county commissioners have the whole Yellowstone County area to worry about and that even though Lockwood is the biggest unincorporated area in the state and county that he feels that the County Commissioners probably lose site keeping focus on Lockwood issues because their job and authority is for all of Yellowstone County and not just Lockwood.
The Meda Assessement continues tomorrow morning at Harvest Church with selected listening sessions for non profits, churches and civic organizations at 8am while businesses, manufacturers, retail and corporations are at 9am. The 10:30 session includes first responders, fire, law, health, and other county services. Lunch will be served with the Lockwood seniors at the Lockwood Meal site where seniors will give some of their perspectives of Lockwood while end of the listening sessions will conclude with MEDA Attendees attending the Lockwood Student council with Lockwood Teachers and Staff to hear their feedback. Finally, a public meeting will conclude for all the community tomorrow night to hear from the MEDA experts on what they heard over the two days.
A final public community meeting for the MEDA assessment will be towards the end of October. Stay tuned to the events section of the www.lockwoodmontana.com website to find the date and time of the final meeting where every member of community is strongly encouraged to attend.