Bath City Manager Peter Owen at a 2019 city meeting. File photo

With City Manager Peter Owens retiring in August, Bath is hoping for a “broad pool of candidates” from which to select his replacement, according to City Council President Aaron Park.

Park said Owens, who announced his retirement in July and will work through Aug. 20, is helping the city update the manager’s job description to reflect key issues on the horizon.

The new manager will need to weigh in on how to use the old Morse High School building, work to keep property taxes low and replace old infrastructure like a century-old water system, Park said.

“Our fire department is woefully (small),” Park said. “We have storm drains and sewers that are 100-200 years old in places, running through people’s back yard. That’s a constant challenge.”

“Old housing stock in the city” also is an issue, he said.

“Workforce housing is becoming a big issue,” he said, as employers like Bath Iron Works bring in more workers. Likewise, he said, the city also needs to find better parking options.

Another priority, Park said, is working to keep property taxes low.

“We have an aging population, many on fixed incomes, and so it’s really important that we allow folks who grew up in Bath and been here to stay here and age gracefully,”  he said.

The city’s current property tax rate is $20 per $1,000 of valuation, meaning a home valued at $200,000 has a $4,000 tax bill. A recent revaluation of Bath Iron Works could result in an increase of $120 to that tax bill.

“We are definitely looking at a wide pool of people,” Park said. “It’s important to have diversity in the pool of candidates we are looking at. I think homegrown is a good quality, understanding the dynamics of Bath, where it came from and the roots, but Bath is also changing a lot.”

In 2018, the city charter was changed to allow the city manager to live outside of Bath, and Owens was the first manager to do so.

Owens said the new manager must work with the new owners of buildings on Front Street to help “shape the vision for Bath” in coming years.

The Morse family owned just about every building on Front Street at one time, Owen said, and the last remaining Morse property was recently sold.

“Now you have a whole new group of owners. I spoke with a number of new owners, and some are going to keep the status quo, but others have big plans,” he said. 

Many of downtown’s classic buildings could get complete makeovers, he said, and potential projects include hotels.

“I think it will be critical that the new manager going forward be in touch and communicating with those building owners as they make plans, to help guide them in a direction that’ll create a vision of Bath that is good for everyone,” Owen said. 

Park said he anticipates the city manager search will go into September, with Assistant City Manager Mark Meyers possibly serving in the interim.

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