PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — While the chairman of the Presque Isle City Council said Thursday that the board is grateful to City Manager Tom Stevens and what he has done for the city for the past 17 years, he said that councilors want the city to “move into the 21st century.”
That, council Chairman Ed Nickerson said, is why the council has decided not to renew Stevens’ contract.
City councilors are planning a meeting Oct. 19 to discuss the recruitment of a new city manager.
The manager said during an interview last week that he has always had a multiyear contract, but it was extended for only one year last year. The city manager said that he asked the council through his attorney to reconsider not renewing his contract.
Stevens said the matter would be discussed at the Oct. 19 meeting.
Nickerson said he did not expect his fellow councilors to deviate from their decision at the meeting.
Stevens said that he was more optimistic.
“It is my hope that councilors would always be open to comments at a meeting,” he said.
“We recognize everything he has done for the city, but we want to take the city into the 21st century,” Nickerson said. “We do not want to do business like we did 10 years ago.”
He added that the council is looking for a creative way to bring more innovation, jobs, businesses and other advancements to the area.
“We told him [Stevens] that several years ago,” Nickerson said. “We presented him with our suggestions about what we wanted to see and how to do it, but he frustrated us by just discarding them and staying with the status quo.”
Stevens said that he has done everything he could with the resources the city has had on hand.
“Given the resources the city has had, particularly in tough economic times, I have addressed all of the items the council has presented to me,” he said Thursday afternoon. “I am very proud of what this city has accomplished.”
Stevens pointed out that earlier in the day he had attended the grand opening of a new federal credit union. He added that numerous buildings, including a new restaurant and a tractor supply company, are being constructed in the city. Businesses also are being expanded, he said, and the new 58,500-square-foot Hampton Inn Presque Isle just opened on Main Street in August.
Nickerson also insisted that Stevens knew when the council renewed his contract for one year last year that he likely would not be hired back.
“We told him to actively and earnestly seek employment elsewhere at the time,” he said. “We have given him plenty of notice. We told him that if he had not found a job by Oct. 1, we were going to start the search for a new manager. Now, at the eleventh hour, he wants arbitration.”
Stevens acknowledged that the council told him to seek other employment, but denied that his decision came at the “eleventh hour.”
“In April or May I made the initial request for them to reconsider the decision,” he said Thursday. “At subsequent meetings, not all councilors were there so it was not really discussed, but this was not a last-minute decision.”
Stevens, 54, started his career at the age of 21, as Millinocket’s welfare director in 1976. He was town manager of Limestone for 12 years before accepting a position as town manager in Standish.
He was hired as city manager of Presque Isle in August 1992.
The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at City Hall.