Articles written by Keely Larson


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  • Federal money on the table for a wastewater project in Seeley, potential system design expected in couple months

    Keely Larson, Editor|May 23, 2024

    Bill Decker sat in the beautifully lit meeting room upstairs in the Barn - what Seeley Lake residents refer to the combo museum, historical society and community meeting spot as - with legal pads and a folder of sewer-related information displayed in front of him. He was explaining a few things about April's sewer board meeting when his phone rang. A representative from Rep. Ryan Zinke's office was on the other line with news of a chunk of money available from the federal government - through...

  • Condon voters approve general fund, technology levies

    Keely Larson, Editor|May 23, 2024

    Condon voters approved two levies the Swan Valley Elementary School Board put on May ballots. Just a little over $20,000 will be added to the school’s budget, about $10,000 into the general fund and about $10,000 for a technology fund, which the school didn’t have before presenting the technology levy to voters. The timing of voted levies across the state couldn’t have been worse in many cases. For Condon voters, the early-March announced levy was right before extra property tax bills were sent out by Missoula County and just before the annou...

  • Nine Blackhawks to attend State track and field

    Keely Larson, Editor|May 23, 2024

    Nine Seeley-Swan track and field athletes will head to State this weekend in Great Falls after competing in Divisionals in Missoula last weekend. The women's 4x1 relay team placed first in Divisionals with a time of 52.38 seconds. Coach Mike Haines said this was almost a second faster than their past times, but the team will likely need to cut a second or a second and a half off to be competitive at State. The relay team was made up of Laicey Auchenbach, Darby Gleason, Kilty Hanson and Lillian B...

  • Potomac teacher wins statewide award

    Keely Larson, Editor|May 16, 2024

    It certainly wasn't a bus evacuation assembly, which was the reason Potomac School Principal Sarah Schmill gave to her staff and students for gathering in the community center on May 6. The Potomac Community Center was filled with Potomac students, teachers, representatives from the University of Montana's College of Education, the infamous UM mascot, Monte, and family and friends of Abby Stitt, who was being presented with the Maryfrancis Shreeve Award for teaching excellence, of which she had...

  • Mis-proofed ballots contain error for valley voters, mistake won't have impact on election outcomes

    Keely Larson, Editor|May 16, 2024

    Voters in the Seeley-Swan and Potomac Valleys will have an uncontested race on their primary ballots that they are unable to vote in — for Public Service Commission District 4. This is due to a proofing error missed by both the state and the county that impacted about 17,000 ballots in the northeastern part of Missoula County. After the most recent redistricting cycle, voters in these valleys were reassigned to PSC District 5, not 4. PSC District 5 is not up for election this year and the election in District 4 is uncontested across the four p... Full story

  • Ovando tea party celebrates social studies learning and kindergarten graduations

    Keely Larson, Editor

    Upon entering the Ovando School gym last Wednesday, visitors were promptly asked if they'd like tea - with various flavors to choose from - and a cookie. Students dressed in white tops, black bottoms and brown hats reminiscent of Pilgrims poured tea from beautiful tea pots and placed cookies on napkins in front of those coming to support the kindergarteners graduating into first grade and the whole school's production of its social studies curriculum. Before the play began, Andrea Tougas,...

  • Bear Fair teaches Seeley Elementary students how to be good neighbors

    Keely Larson, Editor|May 16, 2024

    Danielle Oyler has worked across Montana teaching kids and adults about living in bear country in her role as the wildlife stewardship outreach specialist with Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks. In front of a group of Seeley Lake Elementary School third graders at the Bear Fair, she said students in Seeley Lake have seen more bears on average than any other students at schools across the state that she's talked to. The next closest school is Lincoln. "There's a very good chance you're going to see...

  • Stakes ramp up as Blackhawks head to Divisionals

    Keely Larson, Editor|May 16, 2024

    District track and field was hotter, slower and smaller for the Seeley-Swan Blackhawks last weekend. The athletes competed against the six other teams in their district on Saturday, when temperatures in Missoula were in the high seventies. The heat caused the Blackhawks to clock in slower times than normal, Coach Mike Haines said. This weekend, the Blackhawks will head back to Missoula to compete in Divisionals, where the field expands in size. All the Western Class C teams will compete, which...

  • Get to know your legislators running for office

    Keely Larson, Editor|May 16, 2024

    Primary election ballots were mailed to Montana residents on May 10. The Pathfinder reached out to the 12 candidates running for state House and Senate seats that are relevant to Seeley-Swan area residents to ask them a handful of questions to help voters better understand their prospective legislators. After the decennial redistricting, new maps were drawn by the Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission in 2023. That prompted a new district for Seeley Lake, which now lies in House... Full story

  • Four questions for three community members six days before Pyramid's buyer deadline

    Compiled by Keely Larson, Editor|May 9, 2024

    The announced closure of Pyramid Mountain Lumber on March 14 sent shock waves through Seeley Lake that extended throughout the state and various levels of government. Concern for forest health, Montana’s timber industry and Seeley Lake’s economy and longevity were top of mind. Statements came out from Montana representatives at the federal level to local county commissioners, and solutions — from worker-owned cooperatives to private buyers to a tool launched by the state Department of Labor and Industry to help match laid-off timber worke...

  • Stray dog solutions, 'the squeaky wheel gets the grease'

    Keely Larson, Editor|May 9, 2024

    Loose and sometimes aggressive dogs have caused problems for some Seeley Lake residents, leaving people wondering where the solutions lie. While Missoula County doesn’t have a leash law, there are ordinances related to controlling one’s dog. Dogs must be in clear view of their owner and the owner must be able to control and recall the dog at all times. Dog owners can receive a citation for having a dog at large. Also under ordinance, dogs must be licensed in the county, which lets authorities know the dogs received rabies shots. Missoula Cou...

  • New radar speed limit signs installed off Highway 83

    Keely Larson, Editor|May 9, 2024

    New radar-operated speed limit signs were installed along Highway 83 in Seeley Lake. Bruce Friede, vice chair of the Seeley Lake Community Council, said Highway 83 is an easy highway to blast through, particularly around weekends in the summer when travelers might be just going through Seeley Lake toward Kalispell or Glacier National Park. Last summer when wait times were long for the Salmon Lake construction project, Friede said it got worse as people were likely trying to adhere to a planned itinerary. “When they picked up their speed they d...

  • Blackhawks clock in some PRs at Seeley-hosted event, head to Districts next weekend

    Keely Larson, Editor|May 9, 2024

    Even being the day after prom, the Seeley-Swan Blackhawks performed well at the KLH Track and Field Invite in Missoula on Saturday. This meet was hosted by Seeley-Swan High School and was in memory of Coach Mike Haines' father. Darby Gleason had a "really big" personal record in the shot put event, close to two or three feet more than her usual throws, Haines said. She's been throwing that way in practice, but just not quite during meets, he said. "We knew she could do that," Haines said. Both...

  • Lake Tamarack and other potholes, Post Office "minefield" filled in

    Keely Larson, Editor|May 2, 2024

    Sometime between April 12 and 13, the potholes off Highway 83 that a driver had to navigate before entering the Seeley Lake Post Office parking lot were filled in. According to a Letter to the Editor the Pathfinder received, published in the April 18 paper, the "minefield of deep holes" was "neatly filled in and graded." The writer of the letter learned that a Post Office employee had left work on Friday April 12 and came to work the next day to see the holes filled in, and didn't know who had...

  • WET wastewater treatment feasibility study approved

    Keely Larson, Editor|May 2, 2024

    The Seeley Lake Sewer Board authorized Water & Environmental Technologies, or WET, to move forward with a feasibility study for a wastewater treatment system, which will assess things like the project’s schedule, cost, technology requirements and overall viability. While the timeline is uncertain, this step is one towards defining what wastewater treatment will look like in Seeley Lake, which could include different types of treatment in different areas of town. The engineering company expects the first four phases of the study, which i...

  • Another superintendent offer made, and this time, accepted

    Keely Larson, Editor|May 2, 2024

    After making an offer to an applicant for Seeley Lake Elementary School’s principal and superintendent position, the school board had to reassess after the applicant declined the job. Stetson Spooner, current athletic director at the Mullan School District in Idaho, was the first candidate the school board offered the position to, and he declined due to some personal concerns about moving to Seeley Lake, School Board Chair Doc Welter said. Welter said Spooner didn’t bring up housing as a concern for the move, but did request a larger sal...

  • Blackhawks travel to two rainy races

    Keely Larson, Editor|May 2, 2024

    The Blackhawks took on two consecutive rainy and cold meets last weekend. Friday was at Big Sky High School in Missoula and Saturday was at the East Helena Invitational. Coach Mike Haines said this was the first time the athletes ran in back-to-back events this season. But that's what the teams will be facing at District next weekend. This weekend the Seeley-Swan track and fielders will participate in the KLH Memorial Meet, the meet in memory of Coach Haines' father - former Seeley-Swan High...

  • Dolly Varden Fire started and contained, prescribed burns to finish in coming weeks

    Keely Larson, Editor|May 2, 2024

    The Dolly Varden Fire was reported at 1:50 p.m. on April 23 southeast of Seeley Lake. Now 100% contained, the fire reached one and a half acres. It was caused by a wind-driven escaped debris burn in an area under Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation responsibility, according to an update from the department. Four structures were threatened but because of quick responses from USDA Forest Service Seeley Lake Ranger District firefighters and seven engines, no structures were harmed. “The quick response and initial command of t...

  • Seeley Lake Girl Scouts need you to volunteer

    Keely Larson, Editor|Apr 25, 2024

    Samantha Arroyo remembered Girl Scouts fondly when she was growing up in Seeley Lake in the eighties. As she recalled it, the troop meetings happened after school and the troop leaders were also elementary school teachers. There was a really active parent group at that time, Arroyo said, which also supported Boy Scouts and the Seeley Lake Lions Club. "But they've grown, their kids have grown, and a lot of them moved," Arroyo said. Arroyo and other parents are trying to get the next generation...

  • Swan Valley Elementary moves to a four-day school week

    Keely Larson, Editor|Apr 25, 2024

    The Swan Valley Elementary School Board voted unanimously to switch to a four-day school week on April 9. A survey sent out to parents and community members before the vote showed strong support for the switch. Principal Angie Mock said the four-day school week seems to be the better model for Class C schools and it puts Swan Valley School in alignment with both the high school and elementary school in Seeley Lake where students in both districts share extracurricular activities. Swan Valley’s graduates also attend Seeley-Swan High School. T...

  • SLE board decides on new superintendent

    Keely Larson, Editor|Apr 25, 2024

    Editor's note: After press, the Pathfinder learned Stetson Spooner decided to not take the superintendent position offered to him by the Seeley Lake Elementary School Board. An update will be provided next week regarding the candidate who took the position — Christina Hartmann from Townsend Public Schools — according to the school's attorney. The Seeley Lake Elementary School Board voted unanimously to hire Stetson Spooner as the new superintendent and principal of Seeley Lake Elementary School. The decision came after a review of four can...

  • Seeley Elementary, Clearwater Resource Council receive Missoula County Rural Impact Grants

    Keely Larson, Editor|Apr 25, 2024

    Two Seeley Lake organizations - Seeley Lake Elementary School and the Clearwater Resource Council - have received the full amount possible - $4,000 - from Missoula County through the Rural Impact Grant program. This program is intended for groups like community councils, nonprofits and schools to be used for projects that "enhance the quality of life" in rural Missoula County. Last year, the Seeley Lake Lions Club received funding from this grant to hire swimming instructors and the Potomac Scho...

  • Blackhawks battle at the Seeley-Swan High School Invitational

    Keely Larson, Editor|Apr 25, 2024

    The Seeley-Swan track and field athletes took on 27 teams across classes last weekend at the Seeley-Swan High School Invitational. This is the first hosted meet for the Blackhawks, and the second will be the first weekend in May, which is a memorial event for Coach Mike Haines' father, the Kim Haines Memorial Track Meet. The Blackhawks got 16 personal records last weekend in a fairly challenging field including Cannon Hawkinson's 11.99 seconds in the 100-meter dash and Neveah Wilson in the...

  • Paths forward for Pyramid, interested buyers and wood industry cooperatives

    Keely Larson, Editor|Apr 18, 2024

    At an April 5 meeting in Missoula, various parties interested in purchasing Pyramid Mountain Lumber — Seeley Lake’s largest employer, which announced its closure on March 14 — gathered to learn about potential funding mechanisms available for buying the mill and modernizing its operations. A couple of options emerged as paths forward: the mill could be purchased and modernized — costing somewhere upwards of $40 million, the low-end of the current estimate — or employees, loggers and various land owners could form a cooperative. Like many, whe...

  • Condon voters to decide on school levies

    Keely Larson, Editor|Apr 18, 2024

    For the first time in 12 years, Swan Valley School in Condon is presenting voters with two levies to vote on. A combination of factors like rising costs, increased need for technology to support education, a drop in enrollment and the loss of ESSER funds — money provided during the covid-19 pandemic to support schools — led to a general fund and technology levy to be presented to voters in a special election on May 7. “​​Our school has navigated the difficulties of staffing needs, the rising costs associated with maintaining a high standard...

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