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Ex-Commissioner Noonan hired as temporary Helena Civic Center manager
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CIVIC CENTER

Ex-Commissioner Noonan hired as temporary Helena Civic Center manager

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Former Helena City Commissioner Ed Noonan will take over as temporary manager of the Helena Civic Center.

Noonan, who along with the rest of the commission voted to disband the center's citizen advisory board on Dec. 16, is expected to make $36 an hour and will hold the reins for about six months, according to Helena Parks, Recreation and Open Lands Department Director Kristi Ponozzo.

Noonan replaces the civic center's former General Manager Byron Dike, who resigned Dec. 30. Dike also oversaw Bill Roberts Golf Course. 

Ponozzo was a member of the hiring committee that selected Noonan for the job. She said seven people applied for the position, three of whom were interviewed.

She said this is a temporary position with no health care or retirement benefits.

"We know this is an important position," she said. "We went through a robust hiring process."

City officials have yet to answer questions about who else applied for the job and how much those who previously held the position were paid. 

When asked whether city leaders see any issue with hiring someone who helped dissolve the civic center's advisory board, which played a part in the previous manager's resignation, city spokeswoman Rebecca Connors said Ponozzo's priority has been to ensure the facility continues to operate smoothly and added that Noonan was the most qualified candidate.

Noonan previously worked as executive director of The Myrna Loy Center, continues to work as an adjunct professor at Carroll College and boasts a long history as an advocate for the arts in Helena and the region.

"He stood out among our candidates," Connors said. "He was kind of a natural fit."

Noonan said he became aware of the open position when Dike submitted a letter of resignation, citing a desire to spend more time with his children, in mid-December. Noonan also said he did not vote for the dissolution of the civic center's citizen advisory board with the potential job opening in mind and that the now defunct board had no say over the general manager position.

Noonan and Ponozzo met with Dike on Monday to tour the facility and go over Noonan's new responsibilities as general manager.

Dike, who is largely credited for the recent approximately 25% reduction in the civic center's operating budget, will be added back onto the city's payroll to serve as an adviser to Noonan during one of its busiest seasons, Noonan said.

"(Dike) has been able to open up new directions and programming," Noonan said. "What he's done is certainly something to build on."

Noonan also said the center's existing employees will keep their jobs and that he will soon be working with them closely to get a better understanding of the work.

"I'm excited about it," he said. "This is a good opportunity for me to continue to make Helena a good place to live."

Much of the fundraising for the civic center was organized and executed by the ousted citizen advisory board members in the form of multiple annual events, such as Feb Fest.

This year's iteration of the annual market is expected to proceed as planned. Noonan and staff will take over, according to Ponozzo.

"We thought it was very important to have a civic center manager," said Ponozzo, referencing the civic center's relatively crowded slate of upcoming events. "We want to make sure it's staffed appropriately and running as well as it has been."

Ponozzo said the facility has relied heavily on temporary staff recently in an effort to maintain personnel flexibility.

The city is currently forming a steering committee to either guide the formation of a new citizen advisory board or identify an existing advisory board to take on the civic center work.

City staff are also working on a request for proposals from third-party companies, organizations and entrepreneurs interested in running every component of the facility, from food and beverage to programming and naming rights.

"It's really unknown what's going to happen with the civic center as of now," Ponozzo said. "So we really wanted to be flexible."

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