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Welcome to the NEW Atkinson Reporter! Under new management, with new resolve.

The purpose of this Blog is to pick up where the Atkinson Reporter has left off. "The King is dead, Long live the King!" This Blog is a forum for the discussion of predominantly Atkinson; Officials, People, Ideas, and Events. You may give opinion, fact, or evaluation, but ad hominem personal attacks will not be tolerated, or published. The conversation begun on the Atkinson Reporter MUST be continued!

This Blog will not fall to outside hacks from anyone, especially insecure public officials afraid of their constituents criticism.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sunlight must shine on public's business

Although the following story is about the Haverhill School Committee it could easily have been written about Atkinson. The name could just as easily have been changed to Atkinson Board of Selectmen and Acciard, Grant, Kaye,

From the Eagle Tribune;

Our view: Sunlight must shine on public's business

At least one member of the Haverhill School Committee — Joseph Bevilacqua — has it right: The committee does too much of its business in secret.

"We're talking about public education and the public's money," he told reporter Paul Tennant.

That ought to be obvious to everyone on the committee. But too often in Haverhill, as is the case in other communities, officials look for every excuse possible to do the public's business out of the public eye.

The most recent example Bevilacqua cites is the delinquent Haverhill High School electric bill of nearly $300,000. He said he didn't find out about the overdue bill until an executive session, and called for a discussion of secret meetings at last night's committee meeting.

School Committee President Kerry Fitzgerald contends that this is more about Bevilacqua having a personality conflict with her, and wanting meetings to be public so he can get more face time on local television. She says all of the committee's executive sessions are legal, because they fall under the provisions of the state Open Meeting Law. The meeting about the electric bill, she said, was private because the committee was discussing ways to negotiate payment with the power company.

There are two problems with that. First and most important, there is nothing in the Open Meeting Law that allows an executive session to discuss negotiating the payment of a bill. It is permitted to discuss collective bargaining strategy or litigation, neither of which applied in this case.

But even if the negotiation strategy was covered, as Fitzgerald claims, she fails to address the fact that Superintendent Raleigh Buchanan knew about the bill for more than a year before the public did.

It would have been a simple matter for Fitzgerald to state publicly that the high school had been notified that it had a $300,000 overdue bill, and that the committee would be holding an executive session to discuss negotiations with the power company.

The public is going to have to pay the bill. It deserves to know about it.

In general, public officials should err on the side of openness rather than privacy. They claim to want the public trust. Going behind closed doors so frequently is not the way to gain, or hold, that trust.


Anonymous said...

"there is nothing in the Open Meeting Law that allows an executive session to discuss negotiating the payment of a bill. It is permitted to discuss collective bargaining strategy or litigation, neither of which applied in this case.

I know this story is about Haverhill but I believe there is a similar law in New Hampshire. Our BOS cannot go into Executive Session just because they want to, or someone asks them to.

At the PUC hearing for the loan to HAWC to construct the Atkinson - Hampstead pipeline Harold Morse testified:

A. (Morse) We requested to meet with them with their
10 attorney in executive session to discuss it.
11 Q. And, how many times did we make that request of them?
12 A. (Morse) Three that I know of.
13 Q. And, what was their response?
14 A. (Morse) Never got back to us.

Never got back to us. It is common knowledge Harold canceled the first public meeting with BOS at the last minute, then asked for and Executive Session, which the BOS refused. Then, he ops out out of a public hearing at the Kimball Library at the last minute, again, leaving dozens of people at the door wondering what is going on.

Our BOS was right in not holding an Executive Session and one might say he was not exactly straight with the facts when testifying before the PUC.

HAWC, a private company, and I stress private, wants to borrow $1.2M of YOUR money to pipe YOUR water out of town.

Anybody out there think this is right?

Anonymous said...

No I do not think that is right to use our money. And speaking of the town, many of us are still out of power from the storm we had Thursday night/Friday morning. Has anybody seen any form of electrical work occurring in Atkinson? With the weather as mild as it has been you would think they would lend just one crew of their so called 200 to work in this town. If I am lucky I may see my power restored to my street by this weekend.

Anonymous said...

I'm on Main St near the Village Store and got power back on Sunday night. I saw quite a few utility trucks in town on Sunday. I guess it depends on where you live.

Anonymous said...

Academy came on-line yesterday mid-morning and the library opened. Quite a few people were taking advantage of that when the library was forced to close because they had no water.

The library get their water from HAWC, and HAWC testified before the PUC they do not have emergency power for their pumps.

This is what you get when you have a private, and family owned company, with no transparency, acting as a public utility.

Anonymous said...

Imagine, if the fire department was banking on HWAC to supply water for a pending fire? Since there is no backup support, I wonder if there is any transparency on the quality of this water such as radon.

Anonymous said...

By Unitil's statistics Atkinson has the highest percentage of users without power yet we still have many without power. Driving around yesterday I too did not see one utility truck working. Its just sad.

Its funny how you transition from Hooker Farm Rd in Salem and head onto Salem Rd in darkness! Golly, the difference between power and no power is only 100 feet or so.

Anonymous said...

For the previous two days Unitil has been working on Main St. Those lines are called Primaries because they are the source of the power that comes into the town. They have to clear those first before they can tackle the rest. I'm not necessarily defending Unitil, but in any situation like this, they have to prioritize and work on those lines that will have the biggest impact first.

Anonymous said...

We know from public testimony that HAWC is losing one third of every gallon they pump in Atkinson, and we know this has been going on for a minimum of two years. And now we see the results of them having no backup power.

You would think they would be addressing those problems first.

If I were a HAWC customer I would be on the phone to the DES and PUC and telling them to do their jobs and force HAWC to get its act together, or turn the company over to someone who will, hopefully a public company that can be held more accountable. Given their current state, HAWC has no business using OUR money to expand their business when they cannot take care of what they already have.

Can you imagine an oil pipeline company tolerating a one third loss? HAWC apparently has no problem with it since the source of their product is free.

Anonymous said...

December 16, 2008 11:14 AM, You are absolutely right. Moreover, not supplying those homes with water that may have electricity because HWAC does not have adequate electrical backup could be seen as a health violation!

I just heard that Atkinson maybe without power until Wednesday night. It is amazing how awful this power outage has been managed especially in this town. Almost an entire week without power yet surrounding towns are already up and running.

Anonymous said...

RE: December 16, 2008 12:08 PM

Again, I'm not a spokesman for Unitil, but I know for a fact that Derry and Atkinson were two of the worst hit towns. Parts of Derry are still out also. What both power companies (PUC for Derry, Unitil for Atkinson) first concentrate on are the primary and feeder lines. These are the lines at the very top of the poles. Those wires are not insulated so every inch of them has to be cleared of debris before power can be applied, and I can tell you from what I've seen, those lines were hit hard. That is was happens when you have the number of trees we have adjacent to power lines. The cure is to cut them all down but you know that will never happen.

I'm sure there will be lots of reviews on procedures and priorities after this, but the crews that are out are doing the best they can.

As far as HAWC goes, you are right, it is a safety issue. That is one of the reasons the library had to close. Unitil crews are busting their butts. Appears HAWC is sitting on theirs.

Anonymous said...

To do it the right way would certainly require cutting many down or back from were they are a threat. This is not happening now and will be the reason we have a power failure in the future.

As for future procedures, the effort should have been divided between the worst hit and the easy fixes. Saving the difficult fixes for last has certainly hampered things; not giving much hope to those that have been struggling to see it returned.

It is also an example of how much we are set in our ways and how we deeply depend on electricity to make our lives easier. Without it, many things in our house are worthless.

I certainly hope we get power today.

Anonymous said...

Given the nature of this storm, the easy fixes won't matter until the primary's are fixed. If you cannot get power into a general area, there is no sense pulling a limb of a tree off a line within the area first. So, the power company has to work its way down its distribution system, and I think this is what they have done.

And, lets not blame the crews. I think they have worked their asses off. The question that will have to be answered, were enough crews put in place.

Anonymous said...

December 16, 2008 2:34 PM, I agree.

The crews have been doing as they have been told; the workers are excellent at what they do. Its the aftermath assessment that will determine were the faults are and what is the best way to approach it next time.

Anonymous said...

One way to look at this storm is that it was a test. Were you prepared? Judging by the run on generators I would say, no, many were not.

You can bet many will learn from this storm. You can also bet many will not. Next time this happens, there will be another run on generators. Look at Florida every time a major hurricane approaches. You see people flooding Home Depot buying plywood. You'd think they'd have figured it out long ago.

What really needs to come out as a result of this storm is, were our utilities plans adequate, and if not, are they going to going to draft new plans? For Atkinson, this applies to Unitil, HAWC, Fairpoint and Comcast, in that order. For critical things like food and gasoline: Why weren't more of these stores and stations already equipped with generators?

Seems like a no brainer given the area we live in. However, I feel that if we were to get hit again, nothing will have changed.

Anonymous said...

Driving up Salem Rd this morning, no workers, no signs of life, no nothing. Unitil mentioned on their website that they would be complete in their restoration within then next 20 hours. Everyone should be back on line with the exception of those having the lines torn from their homes.

Has anyone seen the wires hanging from the poles on Salem Rd and the roads joining elsewhere? I really doubt that they will have this running by tonight, I really do.

For the number of crews that are supposedly working around the clock, driving to work and not seeing any action is just frustrating.

Anonymous said...

This weather will be the reason we are now set back yet another day. Its too bad they did not take advantage of the previous days.

I have seen more Asplund trucks doing pick up work than any electrical trucks. Whats up with that?

Anonymous said...

I am a customer of HAWC and I never lost water so they must be doing something. I read on the Eagle Trib that they were running on back up power.

From today's Eagle Trib:

Hope came in the form of a nine-truck convoy from Chattanooga, Tenn. The trucks, all from Service Electric Co., arrived in Atkinson yesterday afternoon and the crews started work to restore power to the town, still largely in the dark five days after the devastating ice storm hit.

"From what I know, probably 85 to 90 percent (of power) is still out," police Lt. William Baldwin said late yesterday afternoon. "They're slowly getting them up."

Power was restored on Main Street from north of Academy Avenue to Island Pond Road late yesterday.

A priority is restoring the main feeder lines to town, Baldwin said, then crews will move onto side streets. Another priority is restoring power to the water system, now running off generators.

Baldwin warned residents that the power company will repair and replace lines from the pole to the top of a house, but the lines from the top of the house to the meter are the homeowner's responsibility. He urged residents to get an electrician to do the work in advance of utility workers' arrival to speed the restoration.

With another storm in the forecast today, Baldwin said he had concerns about plows because there are still wires down and tree debris everywhere.

Baldwin himself is without power and hasn't been to his house in four days.

"I certainly feel their pain," he said. "I'm in the same boat."

The fire station remains open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., for residents to take showers, fire Chief Mike Murphy said.

In addition, the Atkinson Community Center, 4 Main St., will be open all week as a "warming center" from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., serving hot coffee, lunch and dinner.

Anonymous said...

The library is on HAWC and they did not have water the day they got power back. They had to close because of it. The library is within site of the corner of Main and Meditation where HAWC has pumps.

I'm also close enough to their midpoint site I would be able to hear generators there. Nada.

If they put on generators, it was well after power was lost.

Anonymous said...

RE: December 17, 2008 1:02 PM

If you had water, you were lucky. Many did not. HAWC was not prepared. Given the size of their operation, generator back-up is not an unreasonable expectation. If you are going to act as a public utility, you should be expected to be prepared.

Add to that their water loss problem (1 in 3 gallons lost), and the length of time it has been allowed to persist, HAWC is a poor excuse for a public utility.

As was mentioned earlier, they should be required to fix what they have before any consideration is given to allowing them to expand. Water is one of our most precious resources. HAWC has been a very poor steward of that resource.

Anonymous said...

Cheers to the crew of Chattanooga, Tenn. It was a wonderful site to see this crew in action putting our electrical service back in operation.

Once again, thank you from the town of Atkinson!

Anonymous said...

Article Submission:

Car windows smashed, items stolen

By John Basilesco

ATKINSON — Police are investigating the thefts of laptop computers and a briefcase from four cars parked outside Atkinson Resort & Country Club on Country Club Lane Thursday night during the ice storm.

Thefts are an ongoing problem at the country club, which is an "easy hunting ground," police Chief Philip Consentino said.

Consentino urges everyone parking their cars there to put all valuables inside their trunks. The four cars were locked; the thief or thieves broke windows to gain access, Consentino said.

Anyone with information is asked to call police at 362-5536.

We have crime here, so why doesn't the Chief put the police log in the paper to alert people? I know they don't want anyone to know what's really happening in town but if people were aware of problems in town, they could lock up.

Anonymous said...

I have HAWC and I lost my water.

Anonymous said...

The County Club, like HAWC, Lewis Builders and East Coast Lumber, is owned and run by the Lewis Family. Given the pride the family has in the country club, you'd think they would have security measures in place to prevent such thefts. Just having a car with a flashing light roaming the parking lot could solve this problem, but, that would cost money.

Anonymous said...

I for one would like too know what Comcast is doing. While it's not lifesaving, unless you have children and or are housebound, it is something that should be getting back online. Told they are not even attempting to do Atkinson. They told me they don't have phone or cable work scheduled. Other towns had cable when power was restored, why not Atkinson?

Anonymous said...

I hope the town officials post on channel 20, once cable comes back that, UNLESS YOU CALL COMCAST AND REQUEST IT,
you will not receive credit on you bill for all the time you did not receive service. That could be a minimum 1/4 of your bill. This is what I was told by a Comcast rep when I questioned him on a credit.

Anonymous said...

I was told the same thing by Comcast! What a scam. They could easily have corrected bills for the town as it appears all Atkinson customers are out. But hey, when you are the only game in town (thanks Verizon!) you can do what you want. Right Mr. Morse?

Anonymous said...

For HAWC customers who had no water during the blackout you may be interested to know that HAWC has a rate increase pending before the PUC. It is docket DW08-065 and the hearing is scheduled for May 28, 2009.

You can let the PUC know your feelings about this, or any other HAWC matter at

Anonymous said...

When are we going to get some half decent service with cleaning the roads after a snow storm? Has anyone traveled the roads today? I was just on a back road in Atkinson that you can only get one car on it! If there is a car approaching the other way one of them will have to ditch their car into either someone's driveway or into the deep snow.

Anonymous said...

I am so disgusted with everything i am reading. You all sound like a bunch of cry babies!!! We just had a storm like no other. There are still towns without power or water..someone is going to be first and someone last...Hats off to the linemen who have been working diligently to get the job done. Comcast could not work on the lines with out the okay from the power company. You sound luck a bunch of spoiled brats. Grow up.

Anonymous said...

Anybody see the plow guy today taking care of our tax paid roads?

Anonymous said...

I saw a plow cleaning out the driveway of a town politician then go back to plowing the street. Every year I witness this and don't appreciate his double dipping.

This year, I have video!

Anonymous said...

Are you going to post it on you-tube?