BATH — The city has hired a new planner, while a search for a permanent city manager remains on hold.

Planner Ben Averill, who will report to Director of Planning and Development Andrew Deci, began work Monday, Nov. 20. He comes from an economic development job in Auburn, and previously served as town planner in Wiscasset.

When Scott LaFlamme stepped down as Bath’s economic development director Sept. 15 to fill that role in Yarmouth, it was determined that Deci would assume a leadership role for all development and planning activities in Bath, including economic development.

The city also decided to hire a city planner, using the funds that had been budgeted for LaFlamme. The planner would assist “with long-range things, but also to be solely responsible for the development review process,” Deci said in September.

Averill was selected from a dozen applicants.

“His commitment and enthusiasm for community, and using planning as a tool to improve community, was the No. 1 draw for me,” Deci said in an interview Nov. 15. “He has direct experience working on the challenges that our community has, in a place (Wiscasset) that’s very similar and very close to us.”

Averill also expressed an interest in diving into Bath initiatives, such as an upcoming Comprehensive Plan update.

Both communities’ focus on historic districts is a parallel between the two, Deci noted.

Historic buildings and architecture are elements that drew him to the positions, Averill said in an interview Nov. 15.

“I find it really interesting to be able to work in a place that has such a storied past,” the Topsham resident said, praising the beauty, history and walkability of Bath’s downtown.

Manager replacement

Former Public Works Director Peter Owen has been serving as interim manager since the July 6 departure of Bill Giroux.

A charter amendment approved Nov. 7 allows the manager to live outside the city, but only with majority approval by the City Council – has been a critical element as the city prepared to search for Giroux’s replacement.

“Right now I would say things are sort of in limbo, from the standpoint that the Council’s going to have to decide now whether they want to start the search,” Owen said in an interview Nov. 15.

He has offered to serve up to two years as interim manager to allow the council to take its time in the process.

“I think there needs to be an open discussion between the Council and me on … what their goals are, and what mine are, and then start to make decisions,” Owen said.

Owen, who spent 18 years as public works director, in July expressed a desire to retire after a permanent manager is hired.

But last week he said he is “mulling over” whether to apply for the permanent position.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Ben Averill of Topsham is Bath’s new city planner.