SKOWHEGAN — A week after criticizing Town Manager Christine Almand for her leadership and saying she was “deceptive,” the Skowhegan Board of Selectmen has approved a new contract and pay increase for her.

Selectmen approved the contract Tuesday night. It includes an 18% pay increase over two years.

The Skowhegan Board of Selectmen has approved a new contract and an 18% pay increase over two years for Town Manager Christine Almand. Morning Sentinel file

Selectmen approved the pact in a 4-1 vote, with Harold Bigelow dissenting.

Almand now makes about $73,800, which is to increase next year to about $85,000 and $87,550 the following year. The contract runs through the end of 2023.

“This brings my pay closer in line with that of my local colleagues,” Almand said Thursday.

Under the new contract, Almand is to receive the same benefits provided the town’s other full-time department heads and have 20 vacation days per year.

The new contract also stipulates that if Almand were to be fired without cause, her severance package would include three months’ salary and health coverage, instead of eight weeks’ pay and insurance provided in her current contract.

Tuesday’s meeting opened with remarks from a few selectmen, who addressed comments made Dec. 7 at a special selectmen’s meeting.

That meeting was held at the request of Todd Smith, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, who had asked that the discussion be held in executive session. Almand denied the request and the item was discussed in public, with the matter live-streamed over the town’s Facebook page.

Smith wanted to address concerns he had with Almand over how his objections to the funding of a new public safety building were documented. At the time, he called actions by Almand “deceptive” and accused her of “creating a hostile work environment.”

He said Tuesday that during the prior meeting “feelings were expressed, tensions were higher than normal and voices were raised.”

“Sometimes that happens,” Smith said, “but most times, we try to keep those things private.”

He said he and Almand have since spent hours discussing “how to better understand each other and how we can learn from that experience and move Skowhegan forward.”

“Our society seems to have turned into a place where everything is filtered and only the best is what is presented,” Smith said. “A picture is worth a thousand words. Please remember there is another side to every picture, and sometimes that is not the side you want to see.”

Smith added that many people “tend to want to remove the past rather than learn from it.”

“I choose to learn and move forward,” he said. “I live in today and tomorrow, and I’ve learned from my yesterdays.”

Bigelow, however, said he stood by the earlier criticisms of Almand.

“It’s an iceberg. What people see above — there’s so much that’s going on below,” Bigelow said. “We’re here to work for Skowhegan. I was born here and brought up here. My kids work here. This is it. I agree (with last week’s comments), and I don’t feel sorry for it. That’s the way it is, and we’re moving on.”

Almand also commented on the matter during her report to the board.

“Local government is the purest form of governance,” she said. “Among the key principals of good governance are respect, trust and integrity. These must be initially granted and continually earned. As we strive to meet goals together, communication is one of our greatest tools.”

She said the tense exchange last week “was due to a breakdown in communication.”

Almand has been town manager since 2014. She worked previously in accounting and quality control at Huhtamaki, the global food packaging company, and was a bookkeeper for two nonprofit organizations in Washington, D.C.

Almand’s duties as town manager include she fill other roles, such as tax collector, emergency management director and tree warden.

She oversees 66 full-time and 35 part-time employees.

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