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Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake, with the city of Polson in the foreground.

Polson has approved severance pay for its former city manager and moved forward on its search for a new one.

At its meeting Monday night, the Polson City Commission approved a severance pay package worth nearly $53,000 for its former city manager, Mark Shrives, who left the post Oct. 26 amid heated criticism of his performance. The package is worth half of Shrives’s $90,000 annual salary, plus health-insurance and retirement benefits.

Later in the meeting, the commissioners turned their attention to their search for a new city manager. In November, they had considered hiring Prothman, a Washington-based consulting firm, for the effort, but backed down after residents and commissioners took issue with the cost, which they predicted could have reached $30,000.

On Monday, they employed a different tactic for the search, appointing a seven-member volunteer search committee of Polson residents. They named Larry Ashcraft, Lita Fonda, Joan Hart, Ruth Hodges, Mark Johnston, Kyle Roberts and Gayle Siemers to the group. In response to concerns raised by some commissioners and attendees, the city attorney’s office will review the matter for possible conflicts of interest.

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Commissioner Bob Martin said that hiring a firm is “still on the table, but we’re not committed to that yet.

“We really would like to go local if we possibly can,” he said, but if “we get down the road a ways and we don’t get any viable candidates we’re obviously going to have to hire” a firm.

He expects the search for a new city manager to take at least six months. Chief of Police Wade Nash is serving as interim manager.

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Higher education reporter for the Missoulian