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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.

Monday, October 31, 2011

New town Website; Pretty, but no more info. then the last one

From the Eagle Tribune;

October 31, 2011
Town's new website brings everyone together
By Cara Hogan

ATKINSON — The town's new website went live Tuesday, creating a central site for the entire town. Previously, several departments had their own websites.

The site has many new features and offers more information, including recent meeting minutes and agendas.

Todd Barbera, chairman of the Technology Committee, said the new website was recommended by the IT assessment the town did in 2009.

"The old website was created with Front Page, which is obsolete software," he said. "There were also multiple websites for the town. If you go to recreation or conservation or the police department, each has their own website with a different look and feel. We wanted to bring it all under one umbrella and make it easier for residents to use."

All the work on the website was done by Technology Committee member Wendy Barker over the past 18 months — at no cost to the town.

"Wendy saved the town thousands of dollars on this project," Barbera said. "Residents should be really grateful to her."

Barker explained the changes from the old to the new website.

"This website includes such improvements as Google calendars for both government and community events, a search field, and an FAQ page," she said. "It has been designed for ease of navigation and to be viewed easily on any mobile device."

Barbera said the committee still plans more improvements to the website in the future.

"We want to take every meeting that is broadcast on TV — Conservation, Board of Selectmen, Budget Committee — and have those be available online," he said. "Not permanently, but so you would have the opportunity to watch the most recent meetings. It will be a convenience for residents who were unable to watch a meeting live."

Barker said they're also working on integrating social media.

"Future improvements will include such things as Twitter feeds and online submission of web forms," she said. "This has become an ongoing project and every effort will be made to keep its look, feel and functionality up to date."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

TOWER TIME for Phil Again!

From the Eagle Tribune;

October 26, 2011
Atkinson seeks answers to communications problems
By Cara Hogan

An Atkinson police officer called for backup, but no one heard him.

"Two people turned on him and had him pinned on the ground," police Chief Philip Consentino said. "He kept pushing his radio for help and no one heard him. There are so many radio dead spots all over town, it's not safe."

Backup arrived from Salem in time to help that officer, but Consentino said there have been many similar incidents over the years.

Weak radio signals are a serious safety issue in Atkinson, but there are solutions. While other local departments have already installed equipment that strengthens radio signals and eliminates some of the danger of spotty communication, Atkinson residents have been unwilling to pay for the solutions put forth by the town.

Residents rejected a plan in 2008 to build a $600,000, 120-foot communications tower in the center of town. On Sept. 26, the Atkinson Emergency Communications Committee gave the town new recommendations for improving radio signals.

Robert Dahlquist was appointed to the committee two years ago. He said the report shows how the radio signal from Plaistow to western Atkinson is obstructed by Bragg Hill and Providence Hill. Dahlquist said an 80-foot, $100,000 radio tower would improve radio signals somewhat, but not enough. The best overall option is to purchase mobile repeaters.

"One or two cruisers can be equipped with a mobile repeater," he said, "They take a signal from the walkie-talkie and repeat it on the dispatch frequency. The officer has to set his walkie to that specific channel."

Opinions vary on solutions

But Consentino said he disagrees with the report's recommendations .

"We looked into mobile repeaters years ago and that's not a good thing because you have to keep changing frequencies all the time," he said. "The best route was to put in a tower, but now that will never happen."

The repeaters would cost about $4,000 per unit. The total cost would depend on the number of vehicles that need to be equipped. But there are grants available to pay for the technology.

"Several other local police department are using repeaters successfully," Dahlquist said.

In Danville, police Chief Wade Parsons said they used to have a few areas of radio blackout.

"We had several locations that we ran into communication problems with our portable radios," he said.

"We didn't have sufficient power to reach Rockingham dispatch. We could hear them, but we weren't reaching them back. No one was ever hurt, but sometimes Rockingham would dispatch a car to check on us because we were unable to communicate, as a precaution."

The Danville police installed repeaters in July 2009, according to Parsons.

Danville's repeaters were paid for by a federal grant and Parsons said since they installed them, the department hasn't had any problems.

"Things have been great," he said.

"We don't have any lost communication any longer. We have four repeaters installed in all of our cruisers. It's not complicated at all to use; it's just a throw of a switch. I would absolutely recommend this to other departments."

Repeaters worked in Kingston

Kingston recently put repeaters in their cruisers, too, after receiving a grant in March.

"Kingston is notorious for many bad areas to communication, usually in the southern tier of the community," police Chief Donald Briggs said. "The equipment was just installed and it allows us to communicate via radios to Rockingham dispatch. It's much better now."

Briggs said the Rockingham Sheriff's Department is also working on a grant now to install remote receivers around town to improve communications more.

Plaistow Deputy police Chief Kathleen Jones said in every town, even more developed towns like Plaistow, there are certain areas that have radio blackouts.

"In Plaistow, one of the main problems was the high school," she said. "We wanted to be able to communicate in there."

Jones said Plaistow's solution was to use grant money to install antenna canopies, which are similar to repeaters. Now, the high school resource officer can easily communicate with dispatch.

"It's not perfect, but it has improved the service," she said.

"The more things that get built in this area, the worse reception is. If one tower has a direct line of sight to another tower, communication is perfect. When you build things in between, that interrupts service."

Jones said the town bought the equipment from Two Way Communications in Newington.

A company spokesman said they have sold equipment to dozens of towns across Southern New Hampshire.

In Atkinson, selectmen are still discussing the results of the report on emergency communications.

"I don't know when the town will make a decision about this," Dahlquist said.

"Our job was to research and determine what the problems were — and make a recommendation. Beyond that, it's up to the townspeople, the Board of Selectmen and the Police Department if they want to proceed with one of them."

Consentino said the change can't come soon enough.

"If it's 2 or 3 a.m. and you're out of a back road and you see a suspicious car with three guys in it, you might hesitate," he said.

"You know you don't have radio contact and if a confrontation starts, you're (in trouble). It's a very touchy situation and we need to fix it."

Monday, October 24, 2011

Timberlane to focus on science improvement, after bombing NECAP

From the Eagle Tribune;

October 24, 2011
Timberlane to focus on science improvement
By Cara Hogan

PLAISTOW — Science is not a strong subject for the Timberlane Regional School District.

The New England Common Assessment Program science scores for 2011 are low at the high school, middle school and all but one of the district's elementary schools.

"In all of the schools, except for Atkinson (Academy), we get lower overall scores this year," Kerri Killen, director of elementary education, told the School Board Thursday. "We're going to be taking a closer look at our science curriculum, from preschool all the way up through grade 12."

Timberlane Regional High School students scored the worst, with just 17 percent of students scoring a proficient level of 3 or 4. At the Timberlane Regional Middle School, just 30 percent of students were proficient, down from 39 percent last year. That compares to a state average of 55 percent proficiency.

"High school numbers are certainly low," said Scott Strainge, director of secondary education. "We talked to middle school kids after taking the test and they said there was some stuff on there they've never even touched."

In the elementary schools, Pollard Elementary scored the worst with 37 percent of students scoring a proficient level of 3 or 4. Danville Elementary students scored 47 percent proficient. Sandown Elementary scored 61 percent proficient, down from 78 percent last year. Atkinson Academy rose from 67 percent last year to 80 percent this year.

Superintendant Richard La Salle said he wants to make sure the scores are accurate.

"We need to understand these scores," he said. "Why does one or two questions different make such a difference on where you fall in proficiency?"

The School Board asked for solutions.

"These scores are discouraging," member Robert Collins said. "At the elementary schools, the disparity is huge. We go from 37 to 80 percent. What's your plan to improve this?"

Strainge said the district brought in Dr. Ed Henry, a state science consultant, last year.

"We brought him in to work district-wide with the science committee," he said. "He had some good ideas. We changed the standards so we don't have a kid who gets to biology in his sophomore year of high school and hasn't seen biology in three years."

Unfortunately, Henry's job has been eliminated in the state budget this year, so the school is on its own to try to raise the NECAP scores.

Pollard School principal Michelle Gaydos said they have a renewed focus on science because of these scores.

"We're a school in need of improvement and focused so much on reading, writing and math, that the kids didn't have the science inquiry they needed," she said. "This year, we made it a priority. I think we'll be in a better place soon."

Strainge said officials will be analyzing the curriculum and doing everything they can to raise the scores.

"We're just looking for continuous growth," he said. "With the NECAP scores, it's like turning around an aircraft carrier in the ocean. You can't do it on a dime."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Timberlane officials silent on cutting short cheerleading season

From the Eagle Tribune;

October 20, 2011
Timberlane officials silent on cutting short cheerleading season
By Cara Hogan

PLAISTOW — The fall cheerleading squad's season has been cut short at Timberlane Regional High School, but no one will say why.

Administrators and parents have been closemouthed since the decision was announced on Friday. Principal Donald Woodworth would not explain his decision to cancel the rest of the team's season.

"We don't want to single out individual students, coaches or team issues," he said.

"We did have to end the season, but there will be no disciplinary action against the cheerleaders."

Woodworth would not specify exactly what happened to prompt punishment of the entire squad.

"We had some internal issues we couldn't square away," he said yesterday.

"There were a variety of issues, not just one we can solve. I can't comment further."

Woodworth would not name the school's cheerleading coach, who was new this year, nor say if she has been fired.

"We ended the season, so I don't have a coach right now," he said.

Students leaving school yesterday either didn't know about the situation or didn't want to comment.

Diane Ripley's daughter was on the team. She said yesterday the school ending the season was not the end of the problem.

"It's still going on and there's no final resolution," she said.

"It's kind of a fire storm right now. I would be shocked if anyone talked about it. It's a bad situation."

Ripley also wouldn't say what had happened to end the season in order to protect her daughter.

School Board member Peter Bealo said he didn't know the reason for the secrecy.

"All I know is the letter that went out to the parents of people on the cheerleading squad," he said.

"Hopefully, we'll learn more at the School Board meeting this week."

School Board vice chairman Lisa Withee said the decision was made by the high school principal, not the board, so they had nothing to do with it.

Woodworth said the issue with the fall squad will not affect future cheerleading seasons.

"We do intend to run a winter cheerleading program and to work toward a successful fall season next year," he said.

Atkinson loses another officer, but hiring has begun

From the Eagle Tribune;
October 20, 2011
Atkinson loses another officer, but hiring has begun
By Cara Hogan

ATKINSON — Officer Christopher VanHirtum is the third officer to leave the police department in the past six months.

Yesterday was VanHirtum's last at the department, after three years on the job. Chief Philip Consentino said VanHirtum's new job will be with the Windham Police Department, just a few miles away.

"Windham is more money, closer to home and I believe he has more opportunities for advancement up there than he does here," Consentino said.

Before coming to Atkinson, VanHirtum worked at the Newton Police Department from 2005 to 2008. He was initially hired in Atkinson to replace the late Cpl. John Lapham, who died of acute leukemia.

There has been a lot of turnover at the Atkinson Police Department, but Consentino said he hopes that will stop now. Lt. William Baldwin and Officer Justin Paquette both left for other police jobs. Detective Sgt. Philip Farrar officially retired last month, but has stayed on part-time to help the department.

The department was down to just two full-time officers at one point, but the Board of Selectmen authorized Consentino to hire a few new officers last month.

"I've got Officer Nicholas Fiset, who started last Tuesday," Consentino said.

"Selectmen wanted the background investigation done on the two individuals I brought in last week. Hopefully, Monday night, they'll make it official and appoint those two."

The two officers are Detective Sgt. Patrick Caggiano, who will work full time, and Sgt. Scott Anderson, who will work part-time. Consentino said Caggiano will make a big difference, since he will fill Fararr's position as an administrator, handling the day-to-day operations of the police department.

"I still need two more full-time officers," Consentino said. "We're going through applications we received and seeing if we can fill those two positions."

But he's said happy to see some progress.

"The department is in much better shape than it was a month ago," he said. "The selectmen have helped me out considerably by putting Fiset on."

The department threw VanHirtum a small going-away party yesterday after he made his last arrest as an Atkinson officer

Friday, October 14, 2011


Timberlane Athletic Director Angelo Fantasia announced to the girls today, that he was cancelling the cheerleading program, at least for the rest of the season, and possibly for the rest of the year. Mr. Fantasia refused to announce a reason citing "legal reasons", but families of cheerleaders in the program have long had issues with this troubled program. Tales of Senior girls bullying freshman girls. Disengaged, inexperienced coaches, and a general lack of discipline on the team has now come full circle.

Speaking to coaches from surrounding schools they were stunned to hear the news. They stated that they "couldn't imagine that happening at their schools".

The Atkinson Reporter has to wonder what could possibly have caused such a drastic response. Bad coaches can be fired. Bullies on the team can be kicked off, but what can be so bad that the program must be scrapped.

Only time, and parent outrage will tell...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Atkinson police station still source of air quality woes

From the Eagle Tribune

October 11, 2011
Atkinson police station still source of air quality woes
By Cara Hogan

ATKINSON — Dispatcher Lynne Cunningham said she's had breathing problems since she starting working at the police station.

"I'm worried about my health," she said. "I have chest pains, trouble breathing, sinus problems. I get light-headed. It's all because of the air quality in here."

Cunningham said some of her coworkers have experienced similar problems. The department's air quality issues were addressed in the recently released Municipal Resources report, an independent analysis of the department.

"Members of the police department feel the town does not care about their health," the report said. "Employees who have read reports on the air quality issue state there are three types of mold above the false ceiling and that fiberglass is being blown through the ventilation systems."

The cause of the problems is water damage from a roof leaking over the years, according to the report.

Selectmen said they are committed to fixing the problem. The town planned to tear out and replace the duct work over the summer, but delayed the project because of police Chief Philip Consentino's health problems.

Selectman Fred Childs said the project was delayed again because Selectman William Bennett had been out for health reasons. Now, Bennett has resigned and Craig Schuster was chosen to fill the position.

"Now that we've got another selectman, it should be done quickly," Childs said Friday. "This will be one of the first things on the agenda for the new board. We also have to talk about fixing the fire station roof. Both of those will be done by winter; we have the money for it."

The project will take at least three days, Childs said, so the department has to vacate the building. The board is still trying to work out a schedule with the contractor.

"We want it done right," he said.

Cunningham said selectmen have been making promises for months, but haven't made any progress.

"You can see water spots on the ceiling above my head," Cunningham said. "At this point, do we need to get a lawyer to make the town fix this? They said they were going to do it four or five months ago. Enough is enough."

But Childs denied there has been any health impact on the employees at the department.

"We have done all kinds of tests and there is no risk for the people working there," he said. "That's why we weren't rushing into anything."

Friday, October 7, 2011

Atkinson residents warned to lock doors after two break-ins

From the Eagle Tribune;

October 7, 2011
Atkinson residents warned after two break-ins
By Cara Hogan

ATKINSON — Police say the same suspects could be behind two break-ins that occurred within 24 hours.

Police Chief Philip Consentino said there were two break-ins on Tuesday.

"There was an attempted break-in on Stone Pound Lane," he said. "Perpetrators cut the screen and opened the window, and were working their way inside. But the homeowner was home. She screamed at them and they ran off into the woods."

Police searched the area, but were not able to find the suspects.

Later the same day, there was a successful break-in at a home on Conley Road, just three miles away.

"They made entry into the house by a door that was left ajar," Consentino said. "They stole approximately $1,000 worth of jewelry. Nothing else was taken."

He said the two incidents could be related.

"We haven't had a break-in in a long time," he said. "Residents should be aware and keep their doors locked."

Police are continuing to investigate both crimes.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Atkinson chooses new selectman

From the Eagle Tribune;

October 6, 2011
Atkinson chooses new selectman
By Cara Hogan

ATKINSON — The town's new selectman is businessman Craig Schuster.

Selectmen appointed Schuster as the board's third selectman at a special meeting yesterday morning. Schuster will fill the remainder of the term of William Bennett, who resigned last week for health reasons. The term expires in March.

Selectman's Chairman William Friel said the decision was guided by input from residents who called, emailed and recommended Schuster.

"It was a tough choice," Friel said. "All five gentleman were great candidates and bring a lot to the table. Mr. Schuster is an outsider with no real political ties. He has management experience, capital improvement experience and budget experience."

Selectman Fred Childs agreed.

"He's a new face with new ideas," he said. "He comes here willing to learn."

None of the candidates were present for the announcement yesterday, after coming to Town Hall on Monday for their televised interviews with selectmen. Schuster beat two former selectmen and two Budget Committee members for the position.

Schuster has been living in Atkinson since 1999.

His wife, Robyn Schuster, works for the Salem School District. Schuster graduated from Western New England College in 1994 with a degree in business.

He now works full time as a manufacturing manager at Lubrizol, a chemical manufacturing company.

"I oversee 60 employees and I've developed systems to help my business grow over 100 percent," he said in his interview with selectmen. "Many manufacturing sites are downgrading or moving out of the country, but we've increased. All these skills will help me be a great selectman."

Schuster also is an Eagle Scout and very involved in the Boy Scouts in Atkinson. Although he works full time, he said he is willing to put in the long hours necessary as selectman.

"I do have a younger family, with one kid at Atkinson Academy and one in middle school," he said. "I will put in the extra time to create a great town for them to grow up in."

Schuster will sign paperwork and be sworn in before the next selectmen's meeting on Tuesday.

"It was a hard choice, but we're looking forward to getting into budget season," Friel said.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Atkinson hires three Plaistow officers

From the Eagle Tribune;

October 5, 2011
Atkinson hires three Plaistow officers
By Cara Hogan

ATKINSON — Plaistow's loss is Atkinson's gain.

The town has hired three new police officers, all veterans of the Plaistow Police Department.

Selectmen Monday approved police Chief Philip Consentino's request to hire Officer Nicholas Fiset, Detective Sgt. Patrick Caggiano and Sgt. Scott Anderson.

"I can't wait to get them on board," Consentino said. "They're going to start work as soon as I get the background investigations done. Fiset should be here in two weeks."

The department is down to only two full-time officers since Officer Justin Paquette and Lt. William Baldwin left for other jobs and Detective Sgt. Philip Farrar retired.

Last week, selectmen authorized Consentino to hire four new police officers — two full-time and two part-time — to fill the gaps.

All three new hires have years of police experience. Fiset worked for Plaistow for the past 10 years and will be a patrol officer in Atkinson. Anderson worked in Plaistow for 22 years and plans to retire in November, working in Atkinson as a part-time patrol officer.

"Since Sgt. Farrar has left, Detective Sgt. Caggiano will take over for him as the department's executive officer," Consentino said. "He is a 22-year veteran of the Plaistow Police Department with an extensive training background."

Plaistow Deputy police Chief Kathleen Jones said it's not a coincidence that three officers left Plaistow for Atkinson.

"I think they see an opportunity over there," she said. "You hate to lose people, especially people you've worked with for many years. But we always support them if they feel they can find a position that's a little better for their families or an advancement in their careers."

She said the officers won't all be leaving at once, so it won't put a strain on her department. Fiset has given official notice; his last day in Plaistow is Oct. 17. Anderson had planned to retire in November and Caggiano hasn't yet put in his notice.

"We will definitely be replacing the officers that are leaving as soon as possible," Jones said. "It will mean a bit of upward mobility here, too, and create some opportunities in our department. Change isn't always a bad thing."

Farrar officially retired from the Atkinson force last week after postponing his retirement to help while Consentino recovered from open heart surgery this summer. But he hasn't really left the department.

"Farrar has agreed to stay on part-time to help me get things squared away in the next few weeks," Consentino said.

The chief will not be filling the lieutenant's position left vacant by Baldwin, but said he hopes to hire at least one more officer.

"It will make my job much easier," Consentino said. "Once I get these guys on board and trained, maybe I can take a day off."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Atkinson selectman to be selected

From the Eagle Tribune;

October 4, 2011
New Atkinson selectman to be selected
By Cara Hogan

ATKINSON — Only a week after Selectman William Bennett resigned, his replacement will be named tomorrow.

The five candidates vying for Bennett's seat were interviewed by the two remaining board members last night. New Chairman William Friel and Fred Childs will choose the new selectman at 10 a.m.

The candidates include two former selectmen, Paul Sullivan and Raymond Fournier. Sullivan decided not to run for re-election two years ago while Fourner hasn't been on the board for more than 30 years.

The other candidates are businessman Craig Schuster and Budget Committee members Todd Barbera and Dave Paquette.

The replacement for Bennett, who stepped down because of health problems, will serve the remainder of his three-year term. A new selectman will be elected in March.

Whoever is chosen tomorrow must be ready to work, Friel said.

"It's budget season and we're looking for someone to jump right in with us," he said. "It's a big time commitment."

After Bennett resigned, the search for his replacement started immediately.

The five men turned in their resumes by Friday. Last night, each candidate had two minutes to explain why he should be appointed for the next five months.

Sullivan was a selectman from 2006 to 2009, and wants another shot at the job. He was an emergency medical technician and firefighter in Atkinson for 17 years, and served on the Budget Committee for three years.

"When I was an Atkinson selectman with you gentlemen, we all worked well together," he said. "We were fiscally responsible and managed the ice storm. I have firsthand experience and I'm here to step up to the plate."

Fournier said he has the experience needed for the job since he was a selectman more than 30 years ago.

"I worked in engineering for more than 30 years," he said. "I was working full time and I couldn't dedicate the time to being a selectman. Now, I'm retired and I have the time. I will definitely voice my opinion."

Todd Barbera, chairman of the Technology and Budget committees, said he is very qualified and knows state law.

"Leadership skills are key to being a selectman and I am chair of two committees," he said. "I have no political agenda. I serve because I truly enjoy being involved and I plan to run for selectman in March."

Dave Paquette has served on the Budget Committee for nine years. Paquette said he was the only candidate not interested in running for the position in March.

"I think I can really help with the budget," he said. "I'm well-versed in the process. I have no hidden agendas since I'm not interested in running beyond the five months."

Craig Schuster said he has never served the town, but runs a chemical manufacturing company and has lived in Atkinson for more than 10 years.

"I'm an outsider, many people don't know my name," he said. "I'm here to help. I bring a different set of eyes, from the manufacturing and business side. I stand up for what I believe in."

Selectmen asked all five candidates questions, including some emailed by residents. All five candidates said they were willing to work long hours while selectmen compile next year's proposed budget.

Friel also asked the candidates how they would feel about being unpopular and all five said they were up to the challenge.

Friel asks residents who would like to comment on the candidates to email the Board of Selectmen at

That input is to be considered when choosing a new selectman.