FARMINGTON — Selectmen Tuesday night, April 13, hired Eaton Peabody Consulting Group, LLC (EPCG) of Bangor to assist in the search for a new town manager.

Town Manager Richard Davis announced in February that he would be retiring Aug. 27. He has been the town manager since Aug. 27, 2001.

Proposals to assist in the search were received by EPCG and Maine Municipal Association (MMA). The services provided and costs are similar, Davis said.

MMA’s proposal was $6,400 and EPCG’s $6,000. Both are exclusive of advertising costs and any other expenses such as mileage and meals for having candidates come to town, Davis said. Advertising is estimated to be $1,000 to $1,500, he noted.

“I know MMA is extremely busy with manager searches right now,” Davis said. “They asked me if I would delay my retirement. I told them no.”

Having EPCG conduct the search was recommended by Davis.

“They’re very well qualified,” he said. “Don Gerrish (leader of EPCG’s municipal management services team) would sit down with the board and discuss what you’re looking for in a manager and recommend how to proceed.”

MMA is probably understaffed and swamped, Selectman Michael Fogg said.

“Eaton Peabody is more apt to take on a client and put their efforts into that,” he said.

“Both would do a good job,” Selectman Chairman Matthew Smith said.

A special meeting will be set up fairly soon to have Gerrish meet with the board and start the process.

“I have a little more than four months left. It will go by very fast,” Davis said.

The process will be similar to that made recently for the police chief, he said when asked. EPCG will help facilitate the process.

“They’ll be good advisors to you,” Davis said.

In other business, a public meeting was held to answer questions or concerns about the April 26 town meeting referendum vote.

The town warrant as it appears in the annual town report is available on the Farmington website under Advisories and Notices on the homepage, Davis said.

The paper warrant is different than the ballot, he said. The ballot is three pages long with 42 articles so there isn’t a lot of room to provide notes of an explanatory nature, he added.

“I suspect most of the interest tonight is in the budget itself,” Davis said. “There are increases in the budget this year, they amount to a total of 12.13%. That sounds like a lot.”

Last year’s budget was completely flat and was approved without a town meeting because of the Governor’s Executive Order on COVID-19, he said. The tax commitment was lower than the previous year, with the mil rate going from 19.98 to 19.70, Davis noted.

“While this budget is up, it gives me a great deal of comfort to say there is absolutely no reason for it to result in a tax increase this year,” he said. “Despite the pandemic, the town’s revenues remain strong. I expect them to be strong again this coming year. We added more than $600,000 to the unassigned fund balance which now stands at more than $3 million.”

Selectmen will have a great deal of flexibility when appropriating funds to keep the mil rate down when doing the tax commitment in August, Davis said. The solar installation will help negate the increase along with unassigned fund balance appropriations, he said.

“We’ve put together a budget that meets the needs of a growing, strong community,” Davis said. “It does so without placing an undue burden on the backs of taxpayers.”

“The Budget Committee worked diligently, asked a lot of questions,” member Judith Murphy said. “We went back and forth. Department proposals were lean, asked for what they absolutely needed. Given last year … we thought it was fair.”

Voters will only have a yes or no vote on each article, Davis said. If any articles are voted down, the Budget Committee and Selectmen would come up with new numbers that would be presented at a special town meeting, he noted.

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