NAPLES — Naples and Standish are moving forward with searches to replace their departing town managers, and officials in both towns have voted to hire outside groups to help out.
The Naples Selectboard voted 4-0 this week to hire the Maine Municipal Association, a non-profit membership organization that provides various resources to municipalities in the state, to help find a replacement for departing manager Ephrem Paraschak, who will be starting as the new Gorham town manager on Sept. 1.
Also this week, the Standish Town Council voted 6-0 to hire Eaton Peabody, a Maine-based law firm, to lead the search to replace retiring town manager Gordy Billington.
Eaton Peabody managed the search that eventually connected Paraschak with Gorham, and the firm submitted a bid to Naples for its search as well.
Naples officials decided between four bids for the search contract: MMA, Eaton Peabody, New Hampshire-based Municipal Resources and an individual named Carter Terenzini, who offered his services as both an interim town manager and search coordinator.
Though the Selectboard decided to go with the MMA bid, members also expressed interest in having Terenzini make a presentation to the board given his past experience in Moultonborough, New Hampshire, and other towns.
Selectboard Chairman Jim Grattelo said during the discussion that “in a small town like this, hands-on experience is the No. 1 priority,” when looking for a town manager.
“Naples is a very unique town,” Grattelo added.
Selectman Rich Cebra, echoing comments he has made in the past, said that though he’s generally not a fan of the MMA, he has confidence in the organization’s ability to conduct the town manager search.
“My idea would be Maine Municipal Association because they have a tremendous amount of experience in (town manager searches) and they’re on the ground, too, even though I don’t really care for the Maine Municipal Association. I try to say that as often as possible,” Cebra said. “But when somebody does something well – and they do that well – you’ve got to give them credit.”
Paraschak shared his perspective as someone who recently went through the town manager search process as an applicant.
Paraschak said that Eaton Peabody does “a good search” and that “Maine Municipal also does a very good search.”
The MMA proposal has a $4,900 price tag, plus any fees the town might incur through advertising. The Eaton Peabody bid would have cost at least $8,000 plus other expenses such as mileage, printing and advertising. The Municipal Resources bid could have cost anywhere between $6,000 and $16,000. Terenzini’s proposal would have been a flat fee of $3,500 if just hired for the search, but more expensive if interim town manager duties had been added to it.
“We don’t want to go cheap on this, I understand that,” said Selectman Jim Turpin. “But we can’t turn a blind eye to the numbers, either.”
The four members of the board present at the July 10 meeting eventually voted unanimously to accept the MMA proposal, paid through the Selectboard’s unanticipated expenses fund. The board also agreed to explore a conversation with Terenzini to see if he would be interested in conducting an additional assessment of the town and its needs. Selectman Bob Caron was absent Monday night.
Councilors also speculated about the possibility of not having a new town manager in place by the time Paraschak departs. There was discussion about having a town employee – possibly the town clerk or fire chief – serve as interim manager during that time and receive an extra stipend on top of their usual salary. Those discussions were all hypothetical and no decision was made on the possibility of an interim manager.
In Standish, Town Council Chairwoman Kimberly Pomerleau said that the town received only two bids from two groups for its town manager search: Eaton Peabody and a Minnesota-based company, Springstead Waters.
Preference among the Standish councilors for the more local Eaton Peabody was evident at the July 11 meeting.
“Having looked at both of these, there is a lot of detail that goes into the Springstead Waters, and they give, I think, more of a finite timeline, but Eaton Peabody has such a good local reputation,” said Councilor Isabel Higgins in voicing her support for the Eaton Peabody bid.
“I believe we should stay local – I mean, they have a good reputation,” said Councilor Brian Libby about Eaton Peabody.
The council voted unanimously to approve $8,000 for the Eaton Peabody proposal plus and additional 15 percent for other expenses that could arise from things such as printing or advertising. Pomerleau said that the Springstead Waters proposal was for $24,000.
Councilor Michael Delcourt was excused from the meeting, having suffered serious injuries in a car crash last week. Councilor Greg Sirpis told the council that he spoke with Delcourt earlier that day and that he was improving.
Pomerleau also said in a phone interview last week that the council plans to engage the town’s various department heads to see what they are looking for in Billington’s replacement. Pomerlous said that it’s “important for them to have a voice in it.”
Billington, who plans to retire in Sidney with his wife Carol, will stay on in his current role until a replacement is found. His wife has also resigned her seat on the Standish Planning Board, a move that was announced at the council meeting.
Billington plans to steer clear of the search for his replacement.
“I need to stay away from it,” Billington said after the meeting in Standish, saying that the decision should be left to the council.
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
The Naples Selectboard discusses several town manager search proposals during a June 10 meeting.
The Standish Town Council decided to accept a proposal from law firm Eaton Peabody to conduct the search for a new town manager.