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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, May 28, 2011

Atkinson will have independent review of police department

From the Eagle Tribune;

May 27, 2011

Atkinson will have independent review of police department
By Cara Hogan The Eagle Tribune Fri May 27, 2011, 12:14 AM EDT

ATKINSON — Police Chief Philip Consentino said he welcomes an independent review of the management of his department.

Selectmen voted unanimously at a special meeting Wednesday to hire Municipal Resources Inc. to study the day-to-day management of the Atkinson Police Department over the next 90 to 100 days.

The town will pay $5,000 to MRI, which specializes in management reviews, candidate searches and studies of local municipalities.

"They will be looking overall at the police department, at management structure, staffing levels, equipment, capital planning," Selectmen's chairman William Bennett said. "That does not mean replacing the chief. But it means looking at how are we utilizing the manpower we've got."

Selectmen gave Consentino a letter yesterday morning, explaining their decision.

"I welcome this with open arms," Consentino said. "Once a group of professionals comes in and sees how we have to operate — understaffed and lacking in facilities — they'll understand. It's a shame for the town to have to go spend all this money, but if they're not happy with the way it's being run, go for it, see what happens."

Consentino said selectmen should have done a better job informing the public about the meeting. The notice for the special meeting was posted 24 hours in advance in Town Hall, as law requires, but no one other than the selectmen and town employees attended.

"Nobody seemed to know about this meeting. Why does every resident have to come to the Town Hall every day to check if something was posted?" he said. "If it involved a particular department head, wouldn't you think they'd at least call that department head and say, 'Hey, we're having a meeting?' I had no notification at all."

Bennett said the board was waiting for MRI's proposal. When they found out it would be ready, he said, they scheduled a meeting.

"It's not an emergency meeting, it was just moving things along expeditiously," he said. "We weren't doing things in the dark of the night."

The board hasn't signed the contract with MRI yet, but Bennett said they expect it to be finalized in the next week. For the 100 days the company is working, Consentino has to run the department short one officer.

May 27, 2011 6:14 PM

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Atkinson may see changes in police department

From the Eagle Tribune;

May 26, 2011
Atkinson may see changes in police department
By Cara Hogan

ATKINSON — There will be a "change in personnel" in the police department, Town Manager Philip Smith said.

But what that means is anyone's guess at this point — anyone other than the selectmen and Smith, that is.

Selectmen's Chairman William Bennett postponed making an announcement Monday about the future of the department, saying the board is consulting first with the town attorney.

He refused to comment about any potential changes to the department.

Police Chief Philip Consentino is frustrated. He's frustrated by what changes might be under consideration that he's not privy to and frustrated by selectmen's lack of response to his request to replace departing Lt. William Baldwin.

"I have a job to run the police department and I'm getting roadblocks set up on absolutely everything," Consentino said. "I do not know the reason why."

The part-time chief has been on the job for more than 40 years. He has a history of butting heads with selectmen and he's a lightning rod for criticism from some residents.

But Consentino has his supporters, too, and some of them interviewed yesterday bristled at the notion the selectmen may be planning big changes.

Over lunch at Eggie's yesterday, resident Theresa McNally said Consentino has done a "great job" over the years.

"When you have a good thing, leave it alone," she said. "If the selectmen are trying to get rid of him, I'd be angry."

Consentino said he thinks selectmen are trying to interfere with the department. He said he asked Bennett why selectmen are so involved in the day-to-day operations of the police department.

"He told me they don't want to see me create a fiefdom, a kingdom," he said. "I said, 'You people are afraid the police department and elderly affairs is running so well, you're afraid I'm creating a kingdom and you're doing everything you can to break it up.'"

Consentino said he's heard the selectmen are considering making a big change to the department, not just hiring a new officer.

"I don't know what change they could make," he said. "They can't create a police commissioner to take over the fire department and police department because voters have to approve that at the annual Town Meeting."

Bennett and Selectman William Friel have been tight-lipped about any changes.

"At this point in time, the Board of Selectmen have not made any decision regarding the police department," Friel said yesterday.

But the third board member, Selectman Fred Childs, denied there will be any changes.

"There are no plans to fire Consentino or hire someone who would be above him," he said. "He's asked to hire a lieutenant, but we don't want to hire someone just now. We want to see what he really needs."

Smith, the town manager, said Consentino has asked to hire a new officer.

"(Consentino's) given them a few ideas and they're digesting it," Smith said. "This is an opportunity to make changes, if they're deemed the best route for the town of Atkinson."

Consentino sees the delay as something new.

"In the past, when we had an officer retire or leave, all we did was place an ad in the paper and hire another officer," he said. "For some reason, it seems like we're not going to replace Baldwin and I cannot operate with only four full-time officers. I should have seven full-time officers."

The entire process should take about three months, he said, once they find the right candidate.

"We need to hire a new officer soon, that's it," he said.

Smith said an announcement was likely to come at the selectmen's meeting Monday.

• • •

Friday, May 13, 2011

Atkinson fire chief is top citizen

From the Eagle Tribune;

May 13, 2011
Atkinson fire chief is top citizen
By Cara Hogan

ATKINSON — Fire Chief Michael Murphy has served the town for 34 years. On Sunday, he will be honored as Atkinson's Citizen of the Year.

The Atkinson Lions Club gives out the award annually.

"The Lions Club members want to let someone in town know how much we appreciates what they have done," director Phil Consentino said. "This award is not given out lightly; there is an awful lot of thought that goes into it."

He said Murphy joined the volunteer fire department in 1977, and worked his way up, becoming chief in 1990.

"It's a lifetime achievement award," Consentino said. "He's served on many committees, is director of civil defense and now director of homeland security."

Consentino said he believes there will be a high turnout for the ceremony Sunday.

"I'm just humbled and happy they chose me," Murphy said.

Town Manager Phil Smith said Murphy does a wonderful job and deserves the award.

"Chief Murphy is an honest, good man and we, the town of Atkinson, are lucky to have him," he said.

"He works part-time for a stipend; he doesn't get an hourly rate. For what he's doing, it's unbelievable."

Murphy is well known in town.

"He's a natural choice, and everyone knows the contributions he makes to the town," Selectmen's Chairman William Bennett said.

Consentino said other recipients of the award have included Selectman Fred Childs, Town Hall administrative assistant Barbara Snicer and Town Clerk Linda Getty.

The Lions Club has been giving out the Citizen of the Year Award for the past 10 years.

• • •

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Want to go?

What: Atkinson Citizen of the Year

Where: Atkinson Community Center, 4 Main St.

When: Sunday, from 1 to 3 p.m.

Who: Honoring fire Chief Michael Murphy

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Atkinson reports spate of break-in attempts

From the Eagle Tribune;

May 11, 2011
Atkinson reports spate of break-in attempts
By Cara Hogan

ATKINSON — A series of attempted burglaries in town have police launching a Neighborhood Watch program.

Detective Phil Farrar said there have been two recent break-ins in Atkinson and a number in surrounding towns.

"There's been a real upswing in burglaries the past few weeks in the area," he said. "It seems to be more than usual. We get three or four a year maybe."

On May 5, burglars attempted to break into a home on Conley Road.

"They broke a pane of glass next to the door and undid the deadbolt," Farrar said. "The alarm went off and frightened them away. They didn't take anything."

In another incident, suspects approached a home on Westside Drive, asking for directions to Salem.

Police believe the suspects look for homes with a long driveway or with no vehicles visible, and knock on the door. When the owners answer, they ask for directions or offer job services.

"If there's no answer, they break in," Farrar said. "This seems to be the MO."

He said the police are requesting help from residents to deal with the break-ins.

"People need to be aware that communication is the biggest thing," he said. "We've been trying to start the Neighborhood Watch program. We offered it to neighbors who have been burglarized in the past, but we need input from the people — they're our eyes and ears. If someone sees something weird, we need them to call."

Anyone interested in participating in Neighborhood Watch is asked to call police at 362-4001.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Atkinson Selectmen mull selective rule application again

Atkinson selectmen demonstrate, once again the very behavior that has brought them so many lawsuits in the last 6 years, selective enforcement of policy.

From the Eagle Tribune;

May 4, 2011
Atkinson selectmen cautious about sprinkler requirements
By Cara Hogan

ATKINSON — Selectmen are cautious about approving construction on two properties that require sprinkler systems to meet code requirements, in part because of past lawsuits.

Sue Killam, chairman of the Planning Board, came to the selectmen Monday night with a request from the owners of 35 and 37 Boulder Cove Road.

"The two properties are side by side," she said. "At 35 Boulder Cove, they want to put a foundation around a year-round dwelling and add an addition. At 37, they want to raze a seasonal cottage and replace it will a year-round dwelling."

Selectmen's Chairman William Bennett said the two properties need approval from selectmen, according to RSA 35. The projects are on a Class Six road, which is a private way and not accessible by fire trucks.

Fire Chief Michael Murphy said he recommended the owners either install sprinklers or build a fire access road that meets building code requirements.

"It's paved on the way in, but does turn into a gravel road," he said. "Even the paved road gets narrow in some places, making it hard for trucks to get in."

The issue of fire access roads and sprinklers is a sensitive subject in Atkinson. Margaret and Daniel Osborn refused to put sprinklers in their home back in 2008, leading to a long legal battle with the town. In December, the court ruled the Osborns had to pay the town $122,375 in civil penalties for living in their home without a building permit.

"I think we are going to be more cautious about this because of the Osborn case," Bennett said. "We want to make sure all the I's are dotted and the T's crossed, so we don't end up in another situation like that."

Murphy said he, too, is treading carefully because of the Osborn case.

"We certainly want to avoid any type of litigations," he said.

Murphy said the cost of installing sprinklers varies, depending on the size of the house and the access to water, but is usually around $10,000.

Bennett said he has to look into the matter more carefully, before approving the construction.

"We're probably going to vote on this next Monday," he said.