Atkinson Town Hall

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Welcome Message and Mission Statement

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.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Atkinson man seeks more time in illegal home addition case

From the Eagle Tribune;

Atkinson man seeks more time in illegal home addition case Town wants porch removed; owner asks for extension
By Jarret Bencks

BRENTWOOD — An Atkinson man, who town and state officials say has refused to remove an illegally built addition on his home, is asking a judge for time to work through the permitting process.

The town has asked the Rockingham Superior Court to order John Mason Jr., of 4 Rocky Point Lane, to remove an addition to his house that was built without state or town approval. The addition was discovered in 2007.

The 10-by-25-foot addition built on his waterfront property on Island Pond needed Department of Environmental Services approval and a variance from the town zoning board, according to court documents.

Mason recently responded to the allegations from the town. In his court filings, he asks for the court to give him a "reasonable amount of time" to work through his differences with the town and the state.

According to court documents, Mason claims he only made improvements to a pre-existing addition to the home, and denies allegations from the town that his failure to comply with ordinances affects the safety and welfare of other residents.

Mason has been contacted by the town and the Department of Environmental Services on several occasions since September 2007 regarding the addition, but no progress has been made, according to filings by Atkinson town attorney Sumner Kalman.

On Sept. 5, 2007, Mason applied for a permit to "rebuild existing structure," which was rejected because it did not meet wetland zoning regulations, and it needed DES approval and a variance from the town zoning board, according to court documents.

But the addition had already been built, according to the injunction.

A year later, DES officials conducted an inspection of Mason's property and found the construction of the closed porch brought the structure closer to public water, violating state law. On Dec. 2, 2008, DES sent a letter to Mason requesting that a wall for the enclosed porch be removed within 20 days. That letter was returned as undeliverable, according to DES officials.

On April 28,2009, Mason applied to the town's zoning board for a variance. On July 8, the zoning board denied the variance. Mason did not appeal that decision.

The town inspection office, in a letter July 23, demanded Mason demolish the addition. But he has refused.

On Oct. 22, the town filed a petition for an injunction in Rockingham County Superior Court, asking that Mason be required to remove the work he has done and to pay the town fines and penalties.

A hearing has not yet been set in the matter.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Judge denies former teacher's request in porn case Former Timberlane teacher faces multiple charges

From the Eagle Tribune;

Judge denies former teacher's request in porn case Former Timberlane teacher faces multiple charges
By Jarret Bencks

BRENTWOOD — A former Timberlane gym teacher charged with possessing child pornography wanted to have copies made of the images allegedly found on his computer to aid his defense. His request has been denied by a judge.

Scott Buatti of Newton, a former Timberlane Regional Middle School gym teacher and basketball coach, faces charges of possessing a total of 10 photographs and videos showing minors engaged in sexual acts. Earlier this month, defense attorney Mark Sisti asked for copies of the images allegedly found on Buatti's personal computer so a private investigator could conduct a forensic evaluation, according to court filings.

But county prosecutors objected to the request, saying the files were available for review at Portsmouth police headquarters and making copies of them for the convenience of a private investigator would be inappropriate.

Superior Court Judge Tina Nadeau denied the request shortly after it was presented in court.

"Although the court appreciates the challenges in conducting a forensic evaluation at the Portsmouth Police Department, federal law is clear in requiring the analysis to occur at a government facility, unless to do so is not possible," Nadeau wrote.

Her order left the door open for the defense to make the request again if a forensic evaluation proves to be "not feasible" at Portsmouth police headquarters.

Buatti is slated to go on trial in June.

He was among 5,000 alleged domestic subscribers to child pornography sites that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents tracked down throughout the country as part of an investigation that culminated in February 2008.

Buatti was first approached by federal agents at his home on Feb. 25, 2008. Buatti, then 43, admitted to ICE investigators that he had saved pornographic images of children to his home computer's hard drive, according to a report by federal investigators.

Timberlane School District officials were notified that Buatti was being investigated for allegedly possessing child pornography in March 2008. He was placed on administrative leave in April 2009, when he was indicted by a county grand jury.

He faces 10 counts of attempted possession of child pornography and 10 counts of possession of child pornography.

Note: the bold faced paragraph, that is where LaSalle lied to the public when he said they had not been informed about Buatti and that is why he was allowed to work 13 months with our kids.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Letter: Support new vehicle for Elderly Affairs

This letter to the Editor appeared in the Eagle Tribune yesterday, so much for the State's Electioneering law.

Letter: Support new vehicle for Elderly Affairs

To the editor:

On March 9, the voters of Atkinson will have the opportunity to help the town's senior program by voting to authorize the purchase of a new vehicle for the town's Elderly Affairs Department.

The list price of this vehicle is $28,500 and the purchase price is only $19,500. Through donations made directly to the Atkinson Police Charitable Fund we are able to put a down payment of $13,000 leaving the town to raise and appropriate only $6,500.

The town will be able to get an all-wheel-drive vehicle for only $6,500. The vehicle that the new car will be replacing has more than 140,000 hard miles on it. This is due to the fact that it was an old police cruiser. We are afraid to take this vehicle on trips to Boston hospitals in fear of a major breakdown.

We presently provide between five and seven transports a day and we need vehicles that are in good running condition. We have a total of three vehicles, one is a 2007 new wheelchair van, that was purchased with donations, and the other two are old police cruisers.

The members of the Elderly Affairs Department would appreciate your support and vote on March 9 on Article 10 which would authorize the purchase of a new all-wheel vehicle for the town's Elderly Affairs Department for only $6,500.

Phil Consentino

Director of Elderly Affairs

Atkinson, N.H.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Remember this?: Timberlane community wants academic improvement

Remember this story from the Eagle Tribune, two years ago? We are Still waiting!

From Today's Eagle Tribune;

Timberlane community wants academic improvement
By Meghan Carey
Staff writer

PLAISTOW — Extracurricular activities are stronger than academics at Timberlane Regional High School, according to some parents.

The voices of 43 parents who recently participated in an e-mail survey speak louder than their sum. Some 44 percent of responding parents said the quality of a Timberlane education has declined in the last three to five years, and 70 percent said academics are what need improvement at the high school. Approximately 1,600 students from Atkinson, Danville, Plaistow and Sandown students attend Timberlane High.

Those parents aren't alone. Local bloggers and discussion board members are echoing the sentiments online. Four local blogs and online forums have had a flurry of postings in the last two weeks under threads labeled "Timberlane has lost its way" and "Timberlane is going down the tubes."

While the posters allege the school administration doesn't see what's going on, Superintendent Richard La Salle said last week he knows improvements are needed at each school.

"I think that there's always a problem with quality," he said.

Administrators have targeted reading and writing at the elementary and middle-school levels as the areas that need immediate attention, La Salle said. At the high school, the superintendent said he has a problem that just 70 percent of graduates go on to some form of college. The statewide average is 75 percent.

"In this day and age, I think the minimum standard is some form of post-secondary education," La Salle said. "We have to get that number up."

At the elementary and middle schools, a new reading program is already in place. Teachers use six steps to help them identify students who are struggling with reading before their grades start to reflect it, La Salle said. His hope is that will prevent students from falling too far behind now, especially since reading is a basis for all subjects.

Anne Isenberg, a mother of two from Atkinson, was recruited this spring to work on the Strategic Planning Committee. She said there's a discrepancy between the community's opinions of the school district and what the district is doing.

When she and her family moved to the area in 1995, she started talking to people about the schools. What Isenberg found was a community distrust in the schools — and she says that hasn't gone away. A lesson in public relations would help the situation, she said.

"They have been very quiet," Isenberg said of school administrators. "They have to realize that without any communication, the rumor mill fills in."

Improvements in communication can go both ways, according to School Board member Stephen Brown.

There's a time at every meeting for parents and taxpayers to make comments about the district, but that time is rarely used. Brown said it's a much more appropriate forum than posting on blogs.

"We listen, we discuss and reply to those comments," Brown said. "We are constantly striving to make the school district better."

The Strategic Planning Committee, which is made up of parents, administrators, teachers and a School Board member, is striving to do the same.

Isenberg and Kate Delfino of Atkinson, two of the parent representatives on the committee, are taking their roles seriously — starting with conducting the parent e-mail survey.

Isenberg said she didn't have every parents' e-mail address, but tried to get the survey to as many people as possible. The results are not scientific and from a narrow segment of the population, but both women said they are still indicative of parents' general opinions.

"It's one piece in a very large puzzle that we are putting together," Delfino said. "It's really just to be able to quantify some of the thoughts and concerns that are on some parents' minds."

Thirty-five percent of those parents said the quality of a Timberlane Regional High School education has stayed the same. Just 12 percent of those surveyed said it had improved over the last three to five years. Forty-four percent said quality has declined.

When asked what the strengths of the high school were, most parents said performing arts and athletics. Safety and security, clubs and special interests tied for third.

Academics didn't make the list.

Whether community sentiment changes in the future, the plan is to change the education provided to the students over the next 10 years, La Salle said.

The Strategic Planning Committee is collecting data from another parent study, state assessment testing, SAT and ACT scores, and the NHEIAP — a state Department of Educational improvement and assessment program — report, the La Salle said.

When the data is turned into a 10-year plan this fall, La Salle said it will be used as a planner during the coming budgeting process and for the years to come.

Monday, February 22, 2010

State v. Artus: Dismissed without trial!

For those who remember back in the fall, Maggie Osborn filed charges against Leon Artus for allegedly "trying to run her over with his truck" on her "deeded right of way". She had made the same complaint about a neighbor of hers, and the police refused to file criminal charges in that case, but were quick to arrest Mr. Artus for the same offense.

According to the Judge, Mr. Artus had filed a Motion to dismiss because he has been unable to get basic discovery. On Jan. 21, 2010, the Judge held a 2 hours hearing on his Motions and issued a Court Order for the prosecution, the police dept., and Mrs. Osborn to produce certain items, such as; call logs, the umbrella Mr. Osborn used, the pictures taken by Mrs. Osborn, etc.

According to the Judge, her Order was very specific, and Mr. Artus "was right" that he didn't get them. The police were ordered to produce an "original, unredacted call log of that day". instead, they apparently produced a type written copy of the hand written original, and the Court declared "that is not what I Ordered", and "how can we tell if this has been edited as it is not the orignal?"

Based on the prosecution's failure to produce these basic items, and their violation of the court's order, the Court dismissed the case before the start of trial.

Congratulations Mr. Artus.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Atkinson wants lawsuit against it tossed

From the Eagle Tribune;

Atkinson wants lawsuit against it tossed Officials believe case should be heard in Superior Court
By Jarret Bencks

CONCORD — Atkinson officials want a lawsuit filed against them to be thrown out.

The town is being sued by SBA Towers, a cell phone company that wants to add antennae to an existing 160-foot tower near High Hill Road.

The company has been trying to get approval for the antennae from the Board of Selectmen since 2008, when a denial by the Zoning Board of Adjustment was overturned by a federal court judge.

In its lawsuit, the tower company alleged that the selectmen established rules as they went along during their review of the plans, attempted to impose an illegal fee during the permitting process, and are preventing phone service from being provided to local customers, violating the federal Telecommunications Act.

Last week, town attorney Sumner Kalman asked to have the lawsuit thrown out. On behalf of the town, Kalman denied nearly all of the accusations against the town and called the company's use of the Telecommunications Act "misplaced," according to court records.

The town has faced off with the tower company once in federal court. In 2007, the town's Zoning Board of Adjustment rejected the proposed antennae. SBA appealed to U.S. District Court in Concord and Judge James Muirhead overturned the board's decision in September 2008. But Muirhead required SBA Towers to seek approval for the project from the selectmen.

Kalman has asked for the case to be thrown out of federal court because it should be handled by Rockingham County Superior Court, he said. A 2005 agreement with the previous property owners states that disagreements over the use of the land should be heard by Rockingham County Superior Court if the town and landowner cannot come to an agreement.

"They chose to go to federal court, which is a place we've already been," Kalman said.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fireworks at the school board deliberative session

Yes there were firework in the PAC tonight, and those fireworks were lit by Atkinson's own former budget committee chair, Mark Acciard. Mr. Acciard had some very tough questions for the school board and the budget committee, none of which they were able to answer, as Atkinson Selectman, Bill Bennett said later in the meeting; "your silence was deafening".

2010 TRSD Deliberative Session from Timberlane Education Network on Vimeo.

Mr. Acciard began by asking a question about what went into one of the budget's line items, and it took the school board business manager to answer as it was clear that the budget committee had no idea what went into the budget. He then asked who "put numbers to paper"? The answer.... The superintendent! Acciard then stated that this was improper and quoted State Law, in the form of RSA's to back up his claim. As I was watching this exchange, I realised that the school board attorney, Mr. Peter Bronstein was sitting right there to the superintendent's left, not saying a word in contradiction of Acciard's quoting of State budget law.

But there were many more revelations tonight, Superintendent LaSalle stated, in response to a question from Selectman Bennet about his pay and raises, that the public " has no say in what he makes"! THE ARROGANCE! This was preceeded by school board budget committee Vice Chair, Len Mullen from Danville, stating that; "the budget committee did not prepare the budget". He also stated that there was no legal public hearing, no research into the validity of the numbers, no verification of the superintendent's role in the budget preparation, etc. In fact Superintendent LaSalle ADMITTED that there was no Quorum for the budget committee public hearing. When Acciard then asked how the school board could present the budget for consideration when there was no LEGAL public hearing, LaSalle claimed that "we consider it to be a legal meeting, the budget was presented". The Attorney, of course said nothing in answer to Acciard's questions about the law, or his quotations from the law.

This was followed by an ammendment by Acciard, to reduce the operating budget to $56,760,388.00, which he said was last years spending, from the budget he "obtained last week from the SAU" plus the Federal Government's COLA adjustment, less the Teachers raises which are in a separate warrant article. There was much discussion on this, culminating in a statement from Acciard about the quality of his education at Timberlane 30 years ago vs. the lesser quality education received by his four kids at Timberlane. This was answered angrily by a teacher, Mr. Dube, who stated how hard he and his fellow teachers work, and he would not stand by and listen to his work denigrated by Mr. Acciard. Although Mr. Acciard made no personal comments, he was discussing the quality of the district's "product" for the amount they were "charging". Acciard pointed out, to LaSalle's agreement, that the budget divided by the kids enrolled amounted to $14,500/kid! Acciard then pointed out the tuition at some of the surrounding schools providing a better quality education for a fraction of the cost. This is what led to the teacher's anger. These budgetary points were echoed by a number of Atkinson residents to no avail.

As is usual at the school district, the discussion deteriorated into "it's all about the kids" with superintendent LaSalle reading an extended list of the cuts he would have to make to comply with Acciard's ammendment. Acciard and Mrs. Heaney claimed that his list totalled $15,000,000, and they were only asking for last years spending plus COLA, LaSalle claimed his list of cuts were less than $5,000,000, and the question was moved by the husband of budget committee member Michelle O'Neil.

The budget passed as written, the questions about preparation were never answered, the teachers left feeling underappreciated, and once again the taxpayers were left footing the extraordinary bill.

Former teacher seeks copy of computer's hard drive

From the Eagle Tribune;

Former teacher seeks copy of computer's hard drive Former teacher faces charges of possession of child pornography
By Jarret Bencks

BRENTWOOD — A former Timberlane teacher wants copies of pornographic images federal investigators said they found on his personal computer.

Scott Buatti of Newton is charged with possessing computer images of minors engaged in sexual acts. A lawyer for Buatti, a former middle-school gym teacher and coach, has asked the state for copies of images taken from his computer in January and February 2008.

Attorney Mark Sisti argued that the state failed to give him an opportunity to review and analyze the evidence used to bring charges against Buatti.

"The state has refused to provide him with either a copy of the hard drive or a copy of the state's image of the hard drive, thus depriving Mr. Buatti of his due process right to see the evidence against him," Sisti wrote in a motion filed yesterday.

Sisti wants access to the images so a private investigator can review the evidence, according to court documents.

County prosecutors objected to the request. The evidence is available for review, but only at the Portsmouth police station, according to court papers filed by prosecutor Jerome Blanchard.

In his objection, Blanchard argued it may be more convenient for private investigators to have their own copies of the images, but the hard drive is accessible.

Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Tina Nadeau, who is presiding over the case, has not ruled on the request.

Buatti was first approached by federal agents on Feb. 25, 2008, as part of a two-year probe by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. He was among 5,000 alleged domestic subscribers to child pornography sites that ICE agents tracked down throughout the country.

In February 2008, Buatti, then 43, admitted to ICE investigators that he had saved pornographic images of children to his home computer's hard drive, according to a report by federal investigators.

In March 2008, Timberlane school district officials were notified that Buatti was being investigated for allegedly possessing child pornography. He was placed on administrative leave in April 2009, when he was indicted by a county grand jury.

Buatti faces 10 counts of attempted possession of child pornography and 10 counts of possession of child pornography. He is slated to go on trial in May.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Timberlane Deliberative Session is THURSDAY!

From the Plaistow Town Crier;

Timberlane Deliberative Session is THURSDAY!

Posted by Len Mullen on February 03, 2010 at 07:52:32:

The TRSD approved budget is $61.7 million. If you are disapprove that, the school will get $61.8 million! That’s right, vote against their extravagence and they get more money! No matter how you vote on Tuesday March 9th, the school will have $62,000,000 to spend as it sees fit. What do you get for your $62,000,000?

•a high school that has been characterized as a School In Need of Improvement (SINI) for five consecutive years
•a school that failed to call the police or notify parents when middleschoolers were found to be intoxicated
•a high school where a student was repeatedly raped by a teacher
•a middle school where a pedophile was permitted to roam the locker rooms for fourteen months before being suspended — with pay
•a school system where the man responsible for all this has to be notified three years in advance of termination of his contract

If you think our kids deserve better, come to the Deliberative Session this Thursday and be heard!

* For the Rest of Us

Posted by Len Mullen on January 27, 2010 at 23:03:18:

If you look at the 2011 default budget compared to 2009’s actual spend, you may be surprised to find that while we were enduring furloughs, pay freezes, and layoffs, the school budget has increased 11%. If you add in the cost of the new teachers contract, it has increased 12%. A 12% increase in an era of deflation and cost cutting.

The bad news is that the 12% increase is completely contrived. First, consider the contract. The teachers union has negotiated a contract that includes a lump sum payment in the first year and double step increases in the second year. Mr. La Salle has used current headcount to calculate the cost. In reality, the long service teachers will retire after their lump so that that lump sum weights their pension. These teachers will be replaced with short service teachers who will reap the double step in the second year. The cost of the contract is likely to DOUBLE in the second year.

The second time bomb in the budget is the insurance line item. Every year we vote on the budget BEFORE the insurer sets the costs for the year. They provide a maximum ceiling and we budget to that. This is ALWAYS several percent higher than the actual cost. The difference is refunded to the taxpayers. This year the ceiling was 22%. Mr. La Salle got that maximum reduced to 13% to show a better number to the budget committee, but the maximum ceiling has no impact on actual cost. In reality, he just spent next year’s surplus.