Atkinson Town Hall

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.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Timberlane superintendent predicts tough budget year

From the Eagle Tribune;

Timberlane superintendent predicts tough budget year

By Cara Hogan The Eagle Tribune Thu Oct 28, 2010, 12:24 AM EDT

The Timberlane Regional School District may have a tough time balancing the budget this year.

The district Budget Committee will meet for the first time today to go over the proposed school district budget for fiscal year 2012-2013.

It's early in the process and Budget Committee members were reluctant to say much about the proposal at this point.

Last week, the school administration presented a small fraction of the proposed budget — about $6 million of the probable total of $60 million.

"What you see there is a preliminary budget," Budget Committee Chairman Michelle O'Neil said yesterday. "It doesn't include health benefits or personnel costs, and more. We don't have a total dollar value yet."

But Superintendent Richard La Salle had some predictions for the challenges facing the school district this year.

"The economic situation of the state is tough," La Salle said. "The state sends us money for providing an adequate education, called adequacy. In the past two years, New Hampshire has paid for adequacy out of the Obama stimulus money, so that money goes away. There's a large shortfall, as much as $220 million the state has to make up in revenues this year. That has implications in terms of how much the state will be sending us."

He said the state also voted to decrease the money it spends on employee retirement by about 10 percent, while increasing the amount required, putting another burden on local schools and towns.

"The cost of employee retirement is expensive for us," La Salle said. "That's a very large ticket item for us, in the hundreds of thousands of dollars."

The loss of revenue, combined with increased expenses, makes this a difficult year for the school, he said.

"We still have to pay our bills," La Salle said. "Administrators have been charged with coming in with an extremely lean budget and they have accomplished that. But we're in the people business and the majority of our budget has to do with personnel costs. Our enrollments are declining a bit and I suspect we will have some reductions of positions due to class size."

La Salle said the committee still has some big decisions to make.

"It's an extremely tough time for the state and for those agencies, whether municipalities, fire, police or schools," La Salle said. "The School Board and Budget Committee know this and we're working hard. We'll continue to work on this through December."

Last year's Timberlane District budget was $62 million.

The district includes Timberlane Regional Middle and High School, Atkinson Academy, Danville Elementary, Pollard School and Sandown Elementary schools.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Heard in the Town Hall: Chief wants another 10 years!

Yes you heard that right! Apparently Atkinson's own police chief, Philip V. for Vengeance Consentino has been quietly talking to certain selectmen about retaining his position for 10 MORE YEARS!

He has also been lobbying the selectmen to accept HIS proposition that any new chief, must also agree to head Elderly Affairs! What unbridled arrogance! Didn't the Attorney General's office demand SEPARATION BETWEEN POLICE AND ELDERLY over 2 years ago? Some separation!

Supposedly the chief is supposed to keep a time sheet detailing his police hours and his elderly hours. The AG's office said they should clearly be able to tell where the police dept stops and the elderly dept. starts. Thats not happening!

10 More years??? Poor Billy! After all the demeaning, honor destroying, syncophantic duties he has had to perform to maintain his "on deck" position, to have his turn at bat put off for 10 years, That has to be a low blow indeed.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You’ll Decimate the School Distrct Budget


You’ll Decimate the Budget
October 16, 2010
by danvilledelivery

Thursday the budget committee received La Salle’s first presentation of the 2011 budget. The presentations were very high level. The video and the presentation are posted on the budget committee web site.

The committee met after the presentations and the vice chair asked if it was possible to segregate discretionary spending from obligations. The answer, as always, from SAU 55 Business Administrator George Stokinger, was that this would be very difficult. He went on to complain that we wasted a lot of time on this last year and it was time to move on because the SAU respects the wishes of the taxpayers.

I reminded the committee that the SAU just asked the school board to allow $1.2m not allocated for school construction to be used for engineering studies and permitting for a new high school. Before I could add that Mr. La Salle warned the school board that a no vote on a construction warrant would preclude misappropriating other funds for this purpose, I was ruled out of order by the chair.

There was other discussion of the budget process culminating in the annual pronouncement that the budget committee recommends changes to the District which may or may not be accepted and that the administration is free to spend the budget as they see fit once it is passed by the voters. I countered that the administration could not transfer funds to a line that was zeroed and asked Mr. Stokinger if he would split buckets so that we could zero out frivolous expenditures. He said that the state sets the buckets — which is a half truth. I told him that not allowing us to zero out unwanted items by putting them in buckets with necessary items could result in necessary items going unfunded. Mr. Stokinger said that doing that would decimate the budget. And that is the SAU 55 tactic for boxing a timid budget committee out of the budget discussion.

The budget committee attended a Budget and Finance workshop offered by the New Hampshire Local Government Center. I would have called this Loopholes 101 as the program seemed to be designed to help government officers secure more funding from stingy taxpayers. Top of their list of problems was SB2 which allows taxpayers to vote on local matters under cover of the secret ballot. Government employees and officers fear the taxpayers will vote down the budget each year and they will have to make due with a bare bones default budget. SAU 55 has found a work around for this problem. The administration submits a default budget that is more than the requested budget so that a vote against the proposed budget will put more money in the hands of the administration. Brenda Copp and I challenged this tactic last year and Mr. Stokinger stated that the DRA (Depart of Revenue Administration) reviewed and approved the default budget. I asked the DRA rep at the seminar about this at Loopholes 101 and was told the no one from the state reviews the default budget. She stated that the practice of submitting a bloated default budget violated the spirit and letter of state law but that the only remedy was to challenge the default budget in court. And that is the SAU 55 tactic for boxing the voters out of the budget process.

I can think of other remedies. The most important thing we must do is to replace the school board members. The district is able to do all these bad things only because the school board rubber stamps La Salle’s edicts. Elect one decent person to the school board and it would not be possible to seal the minutes of a meeting for 99 years. Elect five decent people and the schools will start getting better. Change starts in March!

Until we can elect a decent school board, we can attend the Deliberative Session and amend the proposed budget. This would put La Salle and his Posse on notice that if they do not start teaching, we will not give them any money. See you at the Deliberative Session!

Atkinson home burglarized

From the Eagle Tribune;

October 19, 2010
Atkinson home burglarized

By Doug Ireland The Eagle Tribune Tue Oct 19, 2010, 12:49 AM EDT

ATKINSON — Police Chief Philip Consentino is concerned about a rash of burglaries in town, especially one Friday when an intruder broke into a house in the daytime when the homeowner was sleeping.

The burglary occurred on Crown Point Road between 7 and 10 a.m., when someone entered the house by breaking a window in the front door, Consentino said yesterday.

The intruder ransacked the house, stealing numerous items, including jewelry, before fleeing, the police chief said.

"The disturbing aspect of the event was the homeowner was sleeping in the upstairs bedroom during the burglary," Consentino said. "When they do it when a resident is in the house, it was a real red flag for us."

Consentino said this is the third burglary in Atkinson in three months. He asks that anyone who is home when a burglar enters gets out as soon as possible without confronting the intruder. The resident should then call 911 from a safe location, Consentino said.

"This is the third one we've had (recently), so it's been a problem," he said. Atkinson police can be reached at 362-4001.

Burglaries have been a big problem in other Southern New Hampshire towns, including some where the rate has risen 50 percent, according to area police.

Salem police said they had 56 burglaries by the end of September compared with 50 in all of 2008 and 51 in 2009.

In Derry, there have been between 175 and 180 this year, police said.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Atkinson man will remove illegal addition

From the Eagle Tribune;

October 15, 2010
Atkinson man will remove illegal addition

By Jillian Jorgensen The Eagle Tribune Fri Oct 15, 2010, 01:49 AM EDT

BRENTWOOD — An Atkinson man will tear down what town officials have said was an illegal addition to his house.

John T. Mason Jr. reached an agreement with the town in Rockingham Superior Court yesterday. As a result, he will have to remove a 10-by-25-foot addition to his 4 Rocky Point Lane home by April 30, 2011. But first, Mason will have to get a demolition permit from the town.

He also must pay the town $15,000 in fines and penalties, and $7,500 in attorney's fees, according to a decree signed by him, his lawyer, town officials and lawyers, and Rockingham Superior Court Judge John Lewis. Mason will pay $300 a month, beginning in May.

"I think it's a reasonable resolution of an issue that arose as a result of a man trying to improve his property," said William Mason, John Mason's attorney. "Perhaps the course he took was not the course that the town wanted him to take."

The dispute between the town and Mason was scheduled for a bench trial yesterday, but the parties reached an agreement instead.

The addition to the house was discovered in 2007, according to Atkinson code enforcement officer James Kirsch. The addition was equal to half the original size of Mason's home, and he needed a building permit to construct it, Kirsch said, but never applied for one.

The construction of the addition also violated other town ordinances and state laws, Kirsch said. In Atkinson, there must be at least 15 feet between the edge of a home and the edge of the property line, but the addition put the house much closer than that, Kirsch said. Because the addition brought the property closer to the shoreline of Island Pond, Mason also needed to get approval from the state Department of Environmental Services, Kirsch said.

"That's what's in the town's regulations," he said yesterday. "People have to abide by those regulations.

Mason applied for a permit in September 2007 to "rebuild existing structure." That request was rejected because it did not meet wetland zoning regulations and needed DES approval and a town zoning board variance, according to court documents. But by then, the addition was built.

A year later, a DES inspection of Mason's property found it in violation of state law. The state agency sent him a letter Dec. 2, 2008, ordering him to remove a wall for an enclosed porch. On April 28, 2009, Mason applied to the zoning board for a variance, but it was denied that July.

The town inspection office, in a letter dated July 23, 2009, demanded Mason demolish the addition. He refused.

It's unusual for a code enforcement issue to drag on for so long, Kirsch said.

"Normally, I would say, code violations get resolved before you go to court," he said.

Sumner Kalman, town counsel for Atkinson, said he didn't know why Mason didn't resolve the case before it went to court. Attorney William Mason said he couldn't speak for "the paths people take in order to get to court."

"In this particular situation, maybe it could have been resolved sooner or maybe it couldn't," William Mason said. "I don't know. I can't speak for both sides."

He said having a court date at least brought both parties into the same room so they could talk about a resolution.

"My client's position was that he would rather have it resolved sooner rather than later," Mason said. "But these things take on their own life once they're filed."

John Mason wanted to keep the addition, but had exhausted his options, his lawyer said. He said the agreement was a reasonable one to bring the house into compliance.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Railway Yard in Wetlands?

Article Submission: Please post as new:

Efforts by NH DOT, Mass DOT, MBTA, Rockingham Planning Commission and various officials of Plaistow have led to an application for funding to convert the old Westville Homes site to a rail layover yard with 6 sidings for passenger trains. This site in New Hampshire appears to be the trade-off for getting passenger trains to stop in Plaistow to pick up commuters.
The problem is that the layover site they chose is on the edge of a large wetland where Bryant Brook runs through and forms the border between Atkinson and Plaistow. It is one of Atkinson's Prime Wetlands, as voted by the Atkinsonian Voters. The proposed yard is a few hundred feet from many of the condos at Bryant Woods. Residents of that area are justifiably concerned about how their homes will be affected by noise and air pollution. Other sites were considered in Plaistow and Haverhill, with the potential for less impact to neighbors. Documents relating to this topic can be viewed at the Atkinson Selectmen's office. Please educate yourselves, and share your ideas; is this a good thing or a bad thing for Atkinson?

October 12, 2010 8:52 AM