GARDINER — The city has a new coordinator at the helm of a two-year Heart & Soul project that seeks to increase civic involvement in the community and develop a long-term vision for the future.

Meghan Carlson has replaced Jarita Sadler as coordinator for the project after Sadler resigned Nov. 6. Carlson was previously on the project’s board of trustees.

The Orton Family Foundation awarded a $100,000 grant to Gardiner in January for the foundation’s project, which targets small cities and towns for community development.

City Manager Scott Morelli wouldn’t disclose the reason for Sadler’s departure because he said it’s a personnel issue. Sadler couldn’t be reached for comment.

The city hired Sadler as assistant community planner in February to do planning and grant writing for Gardiner, as well as project coordinator of Heart & Soul, said Morelli. The planning and grant writing portions of her job were previously duties of the director of economic and community development, but Morelli said the City Council wanted that position to focus on economic development more.

He said the council separated the duties before hiring Nate Rudy as director of economic and community development in July 2011.

After Sadler’s resignation, the city split the position further, contracting out the Heart & Soul project duties to Carlson and posting a request for proposal for a contract community planner. Carlson’s position will likely end at the completion of the grant, while the part-time community planner is a permanent position, Morelli said.

Sadler made $21 and hour, working 30 hours a week, and Carlson makes $15 and hour, working up to 24 hours a week, according to Finance Director Denise Brown.

The city is listing the community planner position as an eight hours per week job at $20 an hour.

Brown said the council wanted to contract the coordinator position out instead of hiring someone on payroll like Sadler, since the city may otherwise have to pay unemployment benefits once the position ended. Gardiner could have to pay unemployment to Sadler, Brown said.

John Barstow, spokesman for the Orton Family Foundation, said a successful Heart & Soul event early this month indicates that the transition shouldn’t be too much of a detriment to the city’s project.

“I’m really thrilled with the recent launch event,” he said. “It feels as if they’re getting some more folks working with the core team, and that’s always exciting.”

The Dec. 1 event at the Boys and Girls Club featured stations for residents to say what they like about the city and their hopes for its future, as well as live music and free food.

Carlson guessed that around 150 attended.

“We’re really enthused at where we’re going and how people are finding out about us,” she said. “We still want more people engaged.”

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
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