SKOWHEGAN — When Christine Almand took over as town manager in Skowhegan in May 2014, she knew that she and the Board of Selectmen would face some tough issues in the months to come.

Payments on the bond for the combined sewer overflow system were sure to raise the tax rate, and the town was bracing for a fight over the Sappi Fine Paper tax appeal.

Selectmen on Tuesday night signed a new contract extension with Almand and gave her a $1,200 raise, increasing her annual salary to $68,200. The contract is effective through Dec. 31, 2016.

“It’s a bit over a year and a half, and some of the challenges I knew we were facing — the Sappi tax appeal — we are still in that process,” Almand said Tuesday before the selectmen’s meeting. “We are currently getting ready for the state Board of Property Tax Review. I knew that going in. I also knew going in that we were going to see an increase in taxes due to the sewer bond project, which is going rather well. We’re definitely coming right along on meeting our goals.”

Almand, the town’s finance and human resource director since 2007, took over last year for Town Manager John Doucette Jr., who stepped down in January. The five-member Board of Selectmen handled the interview process with guidance from Maine Municipal Association and made the selection from an original field of more than 30 candidates.

“During my time as town manager, I have seen the town achieve many successes while addressing our challenges head-on,” she said. “I am thankful to have a good relationship with the Board of Selectmen and an exceptional team that strives to provide excellent service for our community.”

The town manager also is tax collector, public safety commissioner, emergency management director, purchasing agent, general assistance director, agent to overseers of the poor and tree warden.

Before she was hired in Skowhegan, Almand worked in accounting and quality control at Huhtamaki packaging in Waterville and was a bookkeeper for two nonprofit organizations in Washington, D.C.

As finance director in Skowhegan, Almand worked with a $9.7 million annual municipal budget. As human resource director, she handled 59 full-time employees and 75 town workers overall.

Almand said she and the selectmen will continue to work on a set of goals for the coming year, which include discussion of establishing a charter for the town. Other goals for 2016 include working with the board on pay scales for employees, which include non-union workers, department heads and members of the town’s three labor unions.

“The big goal for our future would be the Run of River,” Almand said of the estimated $4.3 million white water park in the Kennebec River Gorge, which runs through downtown.

The bid for an economic impact and operational study for the river project was awarded Tuesday night in the amount of $13,350. Maine-based Planning Decisions was awarded the project with funding from the Sappi tax increment financing or TIF district.

“It’s kind of like a business plan,” Almand said of the study. “Giving us some options and economic impact is always good to look at. I think a big part of our future is looking at economic diversity. It’s very nice to have a paper mill in our town, but it’s not a very diverse tax base if that were to go away.”

Almand said the goal of the Board of Selectmen and her office is to keep taxes from rising and to attract new businesses to town to broaden the tax base with economic diversity.

Successes for the town in 2015 include the expansion at the Gifford’s ice cream plant, continued production at Maine Grains at the Somerset Grist Mill and jobs at Maine Stitching Specialties in the former Dirigo Stitching plant on Dane Street.

“There’s a lot of exciting stuff going on in town, a lot of good energy,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of groups talking together. We’re getting all of the economic players in the community together.”

Almand said other successes to build on in the coming year include a grant for $871,000 for a new ladder truck for the Fire Department to be delivered in 2016, a recent safety award for the Fire Department, the completion of the town football field, the naming of town recreation director Denise Leblanc as the new president of The Maine Recreation & Park Association, the hiring of Donald Bolduc as the new police chief and the graduation of two police officers from Maine Criminal Justice Academy.

In addition the downtown facade program received a new grant in 2015, the municipal parking lot was completed and the town’s Paint Care program for recycling was started. The town’s composting program at the transfer station was named program of the year by the Maine Resource Recovery Association, Almand said.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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