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Municipal facility bid awarded, town seeks outside counsel on manager search

By Beth A. Birmingham | Jul 03, 2019
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Chairman Peter Lammert , left,signs a contract with The Penobscot Co. to complete renovations at the Lura Libby municipal facility during a selectmen's meeting in Thomaston July 1. Also shown are Architect John Hansen, center, and Recording Secretary Kara George.

Thomaston — After sharpening its pencils on the renovation plans for the former Lura Libby municipal facility, the Thomaston Board of Selectmen signed a contract for the completion of the project July 1.

Initial bids all came in higher than expected, and the board authorized Architect John Hansen June 24 to extend the contract acceptance period to go back to the drawing board and make necessary changes with the low bidder, The Penobscot Company Inc.

Adjustments made to the design included a reduced scope for the looping driveway for the food pantry entrance, eliminating the air conditioning in the multipurpose and recreation day rooms, and forgoing the expanded parking area for the Police Department.

Hansen said it was necessary to get the cost down to $809,130 in order to leave a sufficient contingency for surprises.

Chairman Peter Lammert thanked Hansen for the work he put in to negotiate the project pricing down from $1,310,716 -- a difference of $501,586.

The project is expected to be completed by the first part of December.

Town manager search

Following a presentation June 26 by consultant Don Gerrish of Eaton Peabody Consulting Group LLC, selectmen voted July 1 to seek advice from Eaton Peabody regarding the search for a new town manager.

Gerrish, a Maine native, has more than 30 years in municipal government, having served as interim and town manager in numerous locations.

In the past seven years, Eaton Peabody has successfully completed more than 30 executive searches.

"We do it a little bit different than some people do," Gerrish told the audience June 26. "What we do is try to get a pulse of the community." He explained that they meet with whoever will be a part of the search, and set up a timeline to be certain commitments are made.

He said it is important not only for the staff, but the community as well, to be part of the process, and encouraged input from all. Gerrish said having an idea of what challenges the town faces in the next five years -- that will affect a town manager candidate -- is essential.

"Confidentiality is very important when you are doing manager searches," Gerrish said, noting that all resumes will be received by his office, not the Town Office, and recommendations will be made.

Following the initial interviews, in which normally the candidates are narrowed down to a couple, Gerrish said a public gathering will be held in an informal setting so the public can meet the potential candidates.

"It's an opportunity for the public to come in and meet with the candidates and the public has the opportunity to tell the Select Board what they think," he said.

"We don't look backwards and look at all the problems," he said of the public meeting, "This is a positive meeting to talk about the future."

Finalists will then be given the opportunity to visit with the staff, department heads, and view the facilities before a final interview is conducted -- where background checks will be conducted.

Gerrish said, if the town so desires, his firm will work with it and the candidate to negotiate a contract to protect not only the town, but also the candidate.

Eaton Peabody's flat rate for the professional service is $8,000, plus reimbursement of direct expenses such as mileage, printing, advertising and other reasonable expenses incurred. Any and all candidate expenses agreed to by the town are the sole responsibility of the town of Thomaston.

In his presentation, Gerrish estimated the process would take two to three months before a new town manager is named.

He said that timeline depends upon scheduling of meetings, interview, and if the candidate selected needs to give notice to their current employer.

"Just because a manager is let go, that doesn't mean they're a bad manager," Gerrish said. "Some of them need to be let go because they were bad managers, but in the political world of managers, things change."

"We do the research to find out why," he said. The best person for the job is not always the one with the most experience, Gerrish said, "It's the one that best fits your community. That's a big part of who you want as a manager."

He did clarify that it is the elected board that can make the determination of whether the candidate must live in the town to be considered for the position.

"Some communities feel very strong about it," he said, noting, however, that they may miss out on the most qualified candidate.

"Our goal is, we want you to feel good about the process and we want to get you the right person that can help your community," he said.

Maine Municipal Association also assists towns in finding suitable candidates for similar positions, and had forwarded seven prospective candidates to the board. However, the board agreed to go with Eaton Peabody.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at

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