2016-08-24 / Front Page

City manager’s contract extended another year

Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD — Following a one-year review of his performance by the City Council, City Manager Jim Bennett’s contract has been extended by one year.

Bennett’s contract was amended on Aug. 16 by the council to keep him on as the city manager through August 2019, a year later than called for in his original contract.

Bennett will also see a raise of $1,000 as part of his amended contract, which will bring his salary to $122,000.

“That’s a straightforward

1 percent (raise). That’s what they did for all the non-union (workers),” Bennett said Tuesday. “That had nothing to do with my contract; it was a straightforward 1 percent.”

Bennett was initially salaried at $117,000 for the first six months of work when his contract was signed on Aug. 17, 2015, with a raise to $121,000 for the remainder of the year.

“That extension was a reflection of his skill set,” Mayor Alan Casavant said Tuesday. “I think one could say that the extension was based on the council’s affirmation that he’s done everything he’s expected them to do, that they find he’s a strong leader, he’s accomplished a great deal, has great organizational skills and has done very well in the city of Biddeford.”

Bennett has been a driving force in developing a series of plans for Biddeford since coming aboard last year, including the development of a five-year capital improvement plan and a committee to develop a strategic plan for the city.

Bennett has also coordinated with the City Council to develop a goal-setting process that is regularly maintained and posted to the city’s website. He’s helped create an updated parking report, updated the city’s personnel policy, helped the Biddeford Police Department seek accreditation and created an employee of the year program, which he says will launch in September.

Notably, Bennett has been instrumental in making the city budgeting process more transparent.

“These are things that we as the team, mayor, council and staff accomplished this year. While I may have been a catalyst to get some of this stuff done, I’m not taking credit for it,” Bennett said. “I think the joint efforts with the council have been revamped and redone. I think in the past there have been some attempts to do that but they’ve been pretty dormant.”

Bennett’s review took place over several City Council executive sessions, during which he, Casavant and the council president discussed the year’s successes and areas in which Bennett could improve.

When asked what those areas of improvement were, Bennett declined to say, stating the documents listing them were confidential unless he opened them to the public – a move he said he would only do after first asking the council.

“Under state law, that document is confidential unless I decide to open it up, and I’m not willing to open it up unless I have a conversation with the council,” Bennett said, noting that he had no intention of avoiding the question and that he only wanted to respect his fellow elected officials.

But this year hasn’t gone without its challenges, Bennett said, particularly as he transitioned from his former position as manager for the town of Presque Isle.

“The first years are always challenging because for a lot of people, your style and the way you would like to have things done is probably going to be different from your predecessor,” Bennett said. “People are going to have to get used to the way you want to do things – your customs and traditions – that’s always the most challenging.”

“I don’t think you ever get to that point where you have all of that stuff down,” he continued. “There’s always more people in the community to meet and more conversations to have and more relationship building to do, whether you’re in your first year or – like my friend in Cape Elizabeth – almost 39 years.”

Bennett said going forward, he hopes to continue working to improve the city’s downtown area to boost the city’s overall economy, and continue to advise his colleagues on what he believes to be the best decisions for the city.

“We’re trusted every day with what I think is a sacred value,” Bennett said. “We’re going to try to make that source of pride in the community better.”

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or abennett@journaltribune.com.

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