Atkinson Town Hall

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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.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Atkinson loses another administrator

from the Eagle Tribune;

August 19, 2011
Atkinson loses another administrator
By Cara Hogan

ATKINSON — After less than two years on the job, Town Administrator Phil Smith is returning to police work.

Smith gave his notice to selectmen Tuesday.

"I got another opportunity in Roswell, N.M.," Smith said yesterday. "I will be the deputy chief of the police department."

His last day in Atkinson is Sept. 15.

He's just the latest in a long list of relatively short-term administrators. And selectmen haven't always had an easy time filling the job.

Before Smith was hired in September 2009, the town went seven months without an administrator.

But short-term administrators are the norm for a town this size, Selectman Fred Childs said.

"I hope the next town manager will last long," Childs said. "It's a small town, so it's a stepping stone for people. If they can make more money someplace else, they do. That's what happens."

For Smith, who served as police chief in Alton before taking the Atkinson job, it's a chance to move to a warmer climate and return to police work.

"I realized I just really love being in law enforcement. I'm getting back to a field I'm more comfortable with and what I love to do, but it's no knock on Atkinson," he said. "Atkinson was right next door to my hometown and I've learned a lot of new skills being here. It's going to make my police work much more effective and efficient."

Selectmen have begun to search for his replacement.

"We are starting to search for a new town manager today," Childs said yesterday. "It depends on who applies, how long it takes. Sometimes it takes a long time, sometimes it doesn't, depends on the candidates you get."

Selectmen's Chairman William Bennett said he understands why Smith decided to leave.

"He's got a better job and a better income," he said. "I get it."

The town hasn't yet decided whether to hire a consulting company to help with the search, selectmen said.

It's likely the town will be without an administrator for a few months, but administrative assistant Barbara Snicer will fill in, something she's done before.

In fact, Childs pointed out, Snicer has filled in the last two times the town was without an administrator.

Atkinson has gone through a few short-term town managers in the past few years.

The longest someone has stayed on the job in recent memory was Russell McCallister's three-and-a-half-year stint that ended in January 2008. Then came interim administrator Craig Kleman for about four months. He was followed by Steven Angelo, who lasted less than five months, leaving in January 2009.

Smith will be moving to a much larger community when he heads to Roswell. It has about 50,000 residents and a 96-person police department.

"It's a fantastic opportunity career-wise and a lot of us policemen who live in the snowier areas like to make our second bids toward warmer climates," he said. "There's a lot going on in that city. I'm looking very much forward to the challenge."

But he said he's going to miss the people he's worked with in Atkinson.

"I've had the privilege and honor of working with some wonderful people here in Town Hall," Smith said. "That was the most refreshing thing coming out of law enforcement, finding this level of quality people that provide service the community."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Heard in the Town Hall: Town Administrator Resigns!

Yes, it is evidently true. Town administrator Phil Smith has resigned effective immediately. It has been known that he did not agree with some of what goes on in town. It is also known that he has had differences with the chief, due to Mr. Smith's background as a Chief of police himself.

Hopefully in the coming days we will find out what happened that resulted in his sudden departure.

Good luck in your future endeavors, Phil.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Atkinson police chief back on the job

From the Eagle Tribune;

August 16, 2011
Atkinson police chief back on the job
By Cara Hogan

ATKINSON — Police Chief Philip Consentino is back on the job.

Selectmen officially reinstated the chief yesterday, Selectmen's Chairman William Bennett said. Consentino had been out on medical leave since June 14.

"He is under some restrictions by his doctor, but he is back for light duty," Bennett said. "He is still recovering from open heart surgery."

Consentino said he worked a half day yesterday, mainly doing desk work from his office.

"I'm finally back at work," he said. "They gave me a letter stating I could come back to work as long as I follow my doctor's instructions. The main thing is not to lift anything heavy. I know exactly how much I can lift before it hurts across my chest."

Consentino, 70, had tried to do some police paperwork from home when he first came back from the hospital. But selectmen sent him a letter last month, telling him to stop all police work until he was fit to return to duty or else he would be fired.

"They were trying to make sure that everything was in order," Consentino said. "They were so afraid of being sued if I came back and something happened to me they made a mountain out of a molehill."

Now that the chief is back, he can address the department's shrinking staff. Officer Justin Paquette left the department last week and another officer may leave on Sept. 1. That follows Lt. William Baldwin's departure for Plaistow in May. Now, the department is understaffed, with just three full-time officers.

"Consentino will be able to hire replacement officers soon," Bennett said. "He can replace Paquette as a patrol officer now. We know we need that."

The chief had been restricted from hiring any new officers until an independent study of the police department by Municipal Resources Inc. is finished. The study stalled while Consentino was out, but he said he will be meeting tomorrow with a representative from MRI.

"I'm the last of his puzzle to put together, so by Wednesday, he should have it done," Consentino said.

But the chief isn't waiting for the results of the study to advertise for new officers.

"Putting the ads in doesn't mean we're hiring anyone," he said. "We're accepting applications so when MRI does give the selectmen recommendations, which I hope will be to replace two officers, we will have applications in and we can act immediately. Time is of the essence."

Consentino said the hiring process could take anywhere from two week to two months, depending on who applies. The department is specifically looking for experienced officers who don't need much training; the salary will be based on experience.

"A lot of times you can get somebody that has 10 or 15 years in the system and they're looking for something that's fairly quiet," Consentino said. "It would be a perfect job for them."

Unfortunately, he said, the two officers who left did not feel that way.

"Those two officers haven't had a raise in three or four years and have not been able to negotiate a contract with selectmen," Consentino said. "They felt they wanted to go someplace where they had a chance of advancement and more money. The third could be leaving soon because he's taking on a job that could pay him roughly 10 to 15 percent more than he's making here."

Consentino said Detective Philip Farrar did a great job running the department in his absence, putting off his planned retirement to help out the department.

"I'm just glad he's back," Farrar said of Consentino. "My retirement will be in the works now that he's back. Hopefully, everything will be back to normal."

Town Manager Philip Smith did not return requests for comment.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Atkinson police lose another officer

From the Eagle Tribune;

August 11, 2011
Atkinson police lose another officer
By Cara Hogan

ATKINSON — Another officer is leaving the Atkinson Police Department, leaving the dwindling force at just three full-time officers. Police Chief Philip Consentino has been out on medical leave since June 14.

Today is Officer Justin Paquette's last day at the department. Detective Sgt. Philip Farrar said Paquette, a Haverhill, Mass., resident, is leaving for a new job and a bigger paycheck at the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council.

"He's been here for 10 years," Farrar said. "He's been working midnights the last few years."

The police department started the year with five full-time officers. Lt. William Baldwin left for Plaistow in May. Paquette's departure leaves just three full-time officers.

"One of the three officers left has applied to another department and we anticipate him leaving by Sept. 1," Farrar said yesterday. "It's not a done deal yet, but we expect to be down to two officers. We're losing people and, right now, there's no process being begun to replace anyone. We're using part-time officers to cover any open shifts and there will be some mandated shifts and overtime."

Farrar has been covering for Consentino while he recovers from heart surgery, putting his own planned retirement on hold.

"The chief is still not back, so I'm doing my original job as detective and the lieutenant's job and the chief's job," Farrar said. "I was waiting for the chief to come back, but I don't know when he'll be allowed to come back. I'm certainly not going to abandon the department."

Consentino had been doing some paperwork from home, but selectmen sent him a letter last month, directing him to stop any police work until he was OK'd to return to full duty. The chief said he believed selectmen were threatening his job, although board members rejected that idea.

Police can't hire replacements for Baldwin or Paquette until the town has completed an independent study of the department by Municipal Resources Inc., which is looking at how the department is run.

"There is still a hiring freeze the selectmen have put in place until the MRI study is completed, and then we can consider hiring," Farrar said. "But the study is apparently on hold. The MRI people asked to speak the chief because he's the only one they haven't talked to yet, but he isn't allowed to do any police work."

Selectmen's Chairman William Bennett said the town is hoping to get Consentino back on the job as quickly as possible to start hiring a replacement for Paquette.

"We are trying to get the chief back on the job and let him do the hiring," Bennett said. "We don't want to do the hiring ourselves."

Until then, he said, the town has an arrangement with the Rockingham County Sheriff's Department to back up the department with more officers if necessary.

"MRI can't finish their study until they've talked to the chief and we're trying to get him back quickly," Bennett said. "If there were some reason why he couldn't return for some extended period of time, we'd have to reassess our approach. But I don't foresee that happening."

Town Manager Philip Smith said the department still has enough officers to cover shifts adequately.

"The police department has several part-time officers and still has two of the three patrol officers," he said. "The town is adequately protected. There has been only one vacancy, Baldwin, who did not have a patrol shift. The additional vacancy is a full-time patrol officer, which can be covered with our part-time officers until filled."

But Farrar said he's worried.

"Right now, we're good; we've anticipated this first departure," he said. "But, come September, if this other officer does in fact get this job, that will open up another can of worms. We'll deal with that when we get there."

He said he hopes Consentino will return soon and they can begin to hire new officers.