SABATTUS —Jim Bennett is the new interim town manager.
In a special meeting Friday night, selectmen offered the former Lewiston city administrator the post left empty when Town Manager Gregory Gill resigned this week. Bennett accepted and the two sides agreed to terms.
Bennett will work as interim manager for six months for $700 for a three-day work week, selectmen's Chairman Mark Duquette said. Bennett will generally be available when the town needs him, he said.
"This is something that will be beneficial for him and for the town of Sabattus," Duquette said. "He always did what was best for Lewiston and I think he'll do what's best for Sabattus."
After six months, he'll help screen applicants for the permanent position.
"He is not going to be one of the applicants," Duquette said. "He does not want the position full time."
Bennett was not available for comment late Friday night.
The job presents a difference in scale for Bennett. Sabattus has 4,600 people, Lewiston 35,100. He left the post in Lewiston when city councilors ended his contract abruptly in July after seven years.
Gill had been Sabattus' first town manager, a job he took after being town manager in Readfield and town administrator in Minot. Gill had been in the job for two years but worked the last year without a contract. At a board meeting Monday in which three of the five selectmen voted
to accept his resignation, local state Sen. John Nutting suggested that
Gill had been taken out to coffee and given the choice of being fired
or resigning. Gill didn't return a call seeking comment Friday.
Meanwhile, a half-dozen residents, concerned that his resignation didn't follow the proper channels, called for a meeting Thursday, Sept. 10, at 6:30 p.m. at the Sabattus Central School to go over the order of events and answer questions. It isn't being driven by Gill and isn't about getting his job back, said Will Fessenden, who had sat on the search committee for the town manager.
"On the face value, I think the Sabattus charter was not followed when it came to (a selectmen's) meeting of the 19th and when it came to them meeting with Mr. Gill," Fessenden said. "I think there are a lot of people asking questions, 'What's happening?'"
For Duquette, the hiring of Bennett on a temporary basis means that one-time foes are now working on the same side. When the county was discussing the issue of implementing a new E911system, the two men did not see eye-to-eye.
"I was a very staunch opponent on it," Duquette said. "Now, it will be good to have him on the same side of the table."