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Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake

The City of Polson is once again considering spending $30,000 on a consulting firm to help it find a new city manager.

Polson has been looking for someone to fill this role full time for months. In November, the city commission had been prepared to adopt a $30,000 contract with Washington state-based Prothman, but voted it down after several residents balked at the cost.

A City Manager Search Committee has since been assessing the issue, and has decided hiring a firm is its best option.

“After studying the job description and reviewing the steps that would be required to do a proper selection, it became apparent that it was a monumental task that this committee was ill prepared to tackle,” wrote Ruth Hodges, the search committee’s chair, in a Feb. 28 letter to the City Commission.

“The process of selecting a qualified person for this position requires many steps and the majority of the committee members did not feel qualified to make that choice without possibly opening the city up to lawsuits due to our lack of education, training, experience, resources, etc.

“We felt that it was in everybody’s best interests to do a wide search and get the best candidate,” Hodges told the commissioners at a March 6 workshop on the topic. “It’d be good to get local; that would be fine, as long as they’re the best candidate. That’s only one criteria.”

Five of the committee’s members voted to recommend hiring a firm. The lone dissenter, Mark Johnston, said he had favored trying “to find someone local in order to save the potential money that there would be and if you didn’t find someone that you thought was a good fit, you could always not hire them and have the option to go with the professional firm later on.”

At its Monday night meeting, the Commission will vote to approve, conditionally approve or deny the committee’s request to hire an outside firm — either The Mercer Group, Inc. or the Novak Consulting Group — at a cost of $25,000-$30,000. According to a memo prepared by city finance officer Cindy Dooley, the city’s general, water, sewer and golf funds will contribute up to $7,500 each.

“Obviously, this expenditure was not budgeted for the FY2019 fiscal year,” she wrote. “However, each of these funds has working capital reserves that are available to pay the expenditures. I don't anticipate that these fees and costs will cause the overall fund budget to be exceeded in any of these funds for the FY2019 fiscal year.”

The commission will vote on the matter at its meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall in Polson.

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