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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.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Atkinson voters face 3 articles about Elderly Affairs

From the Eagle Tribune;

January 26, 2012
Atkinson voters face 3 articles about Elderly Affairs
By Cara Hogan

ATKINSON — There still are competing warrant articles on the March ballot regarding the Elderly Affairs Department, but selectmen have changed theirs.

It seems the board didn't check with the Recreation Commission before they proposed combining two part-time positions into one full-time job. Selectmen wanted voters to approve creating a single position by merging the part-time Elderly Affairs director's job with the part-time director of Recreation and Senior Programs.

But Selectman Fred Childs said the board changed the article after talking to Noriko Yoshida-Travers, director of Recreation and Senior Programs.

"We didn't talk to the people down at the Community Center before we wrote the article," he said. "Noriko said it wasn't possible to combine the two positions."

After the first draft article, Yoshida-Travers said her job already had too many responsibilities to add more.

"I don't think I can handle that workload for both positions together," she said at the time. "It would be very difficult with my hours."

Now, selectmen have drafted a new article, calling for an annual salary of $25,000 for the part-time elderly affairs job, a position now held by police Chief Philip Consentino — for $100 a year.

Selectmen also drafted a second article, calling for the department to move out of the police station and into the Atkinson Community Center. That articles carries a $1,000 price tag.

Consentino said both articles are designed to separate him from Elderly Affairs. He's been on the job since 1993.

Selectmen and Consentino have long clashed over his dual roles. There's never been a meeting of the minds over the way Consentino handles both jobs. The disagreement reached the attorney general's office a few years ago.

In 2008, the state Charitable Trust Unit found a conflict of interest with Elderly Affairs being intermingled with the police department. The finances were officially separated, but Consentino continues to operate the program out of the police department.

Selectmen want to change that and they are using an independent study of the police department to back up their proposals.

Selectmen paid Municipal Resources Inc. $5,000 last year to review the police department. One of the recommendations in MRI's report was the separation of police and elder affairs.

"That was a recommendation from the MRI report, that Elderly Affairs should be separate from the police department," Childs said. "That was our original plan and it just got pushed back."

From Consentino's perspective, it's just more of the same.

"I couldn't understand why they're creating a job for $25,000 when I'm doing the job for $100 a year," he said. "They're just trying to break up Elderly Affairs, knowing I won't take the job on a full or part-time basis because it's too much work."

That's not necessarily so, Childs said.

"We're going to have to hire someone part-time," Childs said. "That doesn't mean the chief wouldn't have the job."

Consentino said he would wash his hands of the jobif the selectmen's articles pass. Two weeks ago, he drafted a citizens petition, which also will appear on the ballot. That article calls for leaving the Elderly Affairs Department just the way it is.

The chief said he hopes voters recognize what's happening and vote against the selectmen's proposals.

Even Childs acknowledges they probably will.

"I think that people are going to vote against it," Childs said. "The chief has a petition not to do anything with Elderly Affairs and I'm sure that's the one that will pass."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Budget Committee refuses to back added spending

From the Eagle Tribune;

January 18, 2012
Budget Committee refuses to back added spending
By Cara Hogan

ATKINSON — A personal appeal from selectmen didn't change the Budget Committee's decision on spending at last night's public hearing.

Selectman Craig Schuster asked the committee to change their votes and recommend several more of the warrant articles he said were necessary for the town. But the Budget Committee members were not swayed.

"We appreciate the input from Mr. Schuster, but hold to our votes," Budget Committee Chairman Todd Barbera said.

The board recommended 10 of 19 warrant articles — representing a total of $599,000 less than the $703,000 recommended by selectmen. The board did not recommend $5,000 to increase security at Town Hall and did not recommend $20,000 to renovate the Town Clerk's and Tax Collector's offices to limit direct public access.

Both articles specifically address issues from a 10-page audit that selectmen received in December from the New Hampshire Labor Department. The audit detailed several ways the town must improve the safety and health conditions for town workers in the next year. Schuster asked why the committee did not support warrant articles the Board of Selectmen drafted which were mandated by the audit.

"We need safety precautions inside the town offices to satisfy those audits," he said. "When it comes to public safety, we could open ourselves up to liability. There's some security that we need to improve. Too many people have keys to this building."

But Budget Committee Chairman Todd Barbera said the committee did not feel they knew what the safety improvements entailed.

"On both of those warrants, we felt there was a lack of information," he said.

Schuster also asked why the Budget Committee chose not to support the repair of cracked sidewalks at the Fire Station and Town Hall, at a cost of $11,000 each.

"Why wouldn't you recommend the sidewalks? It's also a public safety issue," he said.

Barbera said the sidewalks are constantly replaced and have become a waste of money.

"There are some cheaper and safer solutions than concrete, which keeps getting eroded by salt and has to be constantly replaced," he said. "We need to look into that first."

But resident William Innes, who arrived at the meeting on crutches, also spoke in favor of the sidewalk repairs.

"It is an Americans with Disabilities Act violation," he said. "I'm worried about tripping and falling this winter."

Barbera said the board's recommendations were simply a matter of keeping costs down and taxes low in town. He went over the town's total proposed budget of $4 million, which is up about $34,000 or less than 1 percent, from last year.

Barbera said he did listen to a request for selectmen for a big increase in the legal department's budget, up 103 percent to $78,000.

"There were some lawsuits as well as some contracts being negotiated," Barbera said. "We granted selectmen their wish to increase this line."

Schuster said unfortunately, there were a number of lawsuits against the town recently.

"This is a different age where people like to sue towns and we need to protect ourselves," he said.

But after the meeting, Schuster said the vote by the Budget Committee and even town residents on the safety issues almost don't matter.

"If the town doesn't vote for it, we still have to do it," he said.

He said because the state has ordered the town to improve safety standards, the town has to comply.

Selectmen Fred Childs said if the items aren't approved, town officials will appropriate money from elsewhere.

"We can take money out of any other town budget for this, fire, highway, whatever," he said. "It has to be done."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Atkinson voters asked to fund station repairs

From the Eagle Tribune;

January 17, 2012
Atkinson voters asked to fund station repairs
By Cara Hogan

ATKINSON — Work to remedy air-quality problems at the police station is a lot more expensive than selectmen anticipated.

Bids for the repairs were so high, selectmen have drafted a $45,000 warrant article for Town Meeting to fund the needed work.

The warrant article would raise money to "remove and replace the distribution duct work, and replace the ceiling tiles and ceiling insulation disturbed during this replacement."

Selectman Fred Childs said $45,000 was the lowest bid the town received.

"It was a lot more than we expected," he said. "If it passes, we're on track to do it right away — just as long as that company holds to the bid."

There have been a number of delays on the project, which was supposed to be completed over the summer. A report by Municipal Resources Inc. found three types of mold and fiberglass particles in the air at the station, caused by water damage from the leaky roof. Selectmen initially planned to simply to replace the duct work, but more problems were revealed.

Police Chief Philip Consentino said it has taken selectmen more than three years to get someone to come in and take a look at the duct work, so he hopes the project will be completed soon.

"The only thing I'm concerned over is they received two bids, one for $45,000 and one for $75,000," he said. "If they can do everything for $45,000, that will be great. But if they get up there and find they have $1,000 more they need to do, the warrant article is very clear, you can't spend a penny more."

Consentino is optimistic residents will approve the warrant article because it addresses a safety issue.

"Generally, when residents realize it's an employee safety issue, they go along with it," he said. "The town doesn't have much choice. If it's not approved through the warrant, I think the town will have to find the funds somewhere else."

The town is under pressure to complete the work. Selectmen received a 10-page audit in December from the New Hampshire Department of Labor, detailing how the town must improve the safety and health conditions for town workers. The town has until Jan. 13 to send the state a written response, outlining when and how violations, including the air quality problems, will be fixed.

Selectmen questioned whether the moisture problems were really posing a health risk to any employees, but they are still committed to fixing the problem.

"It's all on there, so people can vote on them," Childs said. "We could have taken it off if we wanted to, but we didn't."

There are also warrant articles for a new police cruiser and funding to fund a sixth police officer, which Consentino said he hopes also pass.

Childs said there is a long list of warrant articles this year, totalling nearly $700,000.

"The police station and the Mill Stream Bridge are two things that definitely need to be done," he said. "People can make up their mind if they want to spend money on a sixth full-time officer."

The Mill Stream Bridge has been red flagged by the state as unsafe and the town must repair it. The warrant article asks for $83,965.

Consentino said the air quality issue is the most important one. Police department employees are just hoping to be able to breathe clean air.

"If they fix it, everyone here will be very grateful for their actions," Consentino said.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Atkinson voters will face opposing articles on ballot

From the Eagle Tribune;

January 14, 2012
Atkinson voters will face opposing articles on ballot
By Cara Hogan

ATKINSON — A petition warrant article directly opposes the selectmen's plan to separate the Elderly Affairs Department from the Police Department.

Elderly affairs director and police Chief Philip Consentino said he decided to protect the organization he founded. He organized a petition warrant article to support keeping Elderly Affairs at the Police Department, with support from the Budget Committee.

"We got together 110 signatures," he said. "The petition was explained to people, and they came down to the station wanting to sign it. There wasn't any problem getting the signatures."

Consentino only needed 25 signatures for the article to make it on to the March ballot.

Last week, selectmen drafted two articles that would completely change the operation of Elderly Affairs. One would appropriate $1,000 to move the department to the Atkinson Community Center, and consolidate the senior recreation programs and Elderly Affairs into one location. The other article would raise $25,000 to combine the responsibilities of the part-time director of Elderly Affairs and the part-time Recreation and Senior Program director into one new full-time position: the director of Senior and Recreation Affairs.

Selectman Fred Childs said the board does not endorse Consentino's article.

"That's their decision," he said. "They got the required 25 signatures."

Consentino said selectmen have been trying to separate him from Elderly Affairs for years. In 2008, the state's state attorney general's charitable trust unit declared there was a conflict of interest in the operations of Elderly Affairs being intermingled with the police department.

The finances of the groups were officially separated, but Consentino continues to operate the program out of the police department.

An independent study by Municipal Resources Inc. in October recommended the town separate the Police Department and Elderly Affairs because of conflicts of interest.

The two articles drafted by selectmen do not have the support of the Budget Committee, according to Chairman Todd Barbera. He said the board voted, 5-1, not to move the department and unanimously voted against creating a new position.

"People felt it was running just fine and we didn't need to add $25,000 to the salary of the Elderly Affairs director when we were getting the job done for $100," Barbera said. "We also had to take into consideration the overall costs of the warrants. You prioritize and try to give a balance."

The Budget Committee also did not endorse some other articles: two addressing sidewalk repairs, the purchase of a new highway department truck and adding money to the Recreation Capital Reserve Fund. But the committee did support buying a new police car and hiring a sixth Atkinson police officer.

Childs said the Budget Committee votes against many articles selectmen endorse.

"It's typical," he said. "The Budget Committee votes and we can only spend the money they approve. I'm not worried."

But Consentino said now there are two different viewpoints on the ballot.

"We'll let the public make a decision one way or another," he said.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Atkinson may separate police, elder affairs

From the Eagle Tribune;

January 10, 2012
Atkinson may separate police, elder affairs
By Cara Hogan

ATKINSON — Police Chief Philip Consentino may no longer have the title of Elderly Affairs director after March.

Two warrant articles aim to completely change the Elderly Affairs Department and separate it from the police department.

"I've worked for 21 years to put together this program and now they're telling me my job is gone," Consentino said.

The articles both were drafted by selectmen. One article would appropriate $1,000 to move the department to the Atkinson Community Center, and consolidate the senior recreation programs and Elderly Affairs into one location.

The other article would raise $25,000 to combine two part-time jobs into one full-time position. It would combine the responsibilities of the director of Elderly Affairs and the Recreation and Senior Program Director into one new position: the director of Senior and Recreation Affairs.

The elderly affairs programs gives local seniors a hand with rides to doctor's appointments, heating bills and more.

But Consentino said creating the new position is a waste of money.

"They're trying to break off the Elderly Affairs Department from the police department and they're willing to pay for it," he said. "They're going to pay someone $25,000 a year to do what I'm doing for $100 a year."

Consentino said he had no idea selectmen were writing this warrant article, but wasn't surprised.

In October, selectmen paid for an independent study by Municipal Resources Inc. to analyze the police department after numerous conflicts with Consentino. One of the recommendations of the study was to separate the police department and Elderly Affairs because of conflicts of interest.

"Atkinson police dispatchers receive calls from elderly residents requesting rides and then schedule those rides," read the report. "Some interviewed police officers suggested that this program should be moved out of the police station."

The other town employee who would be affected by the warrant articles is Noriko Yoshida-Travers, recreation and senior programs director. She said she was surprised.

"Actually, selectmen never really asked my opinion," she said. "I found out from somebody else."

She said she isn't sure if she's lost her job or will be expected to add many more responsibilities to her job for the additional salary.

"If I am the one doing it, I don't think I can handle that workload for both positions together," she said. "It would be very difficult with my hours."

She works part-time, but said she has a significant number of responsibilities.

"My phone is always busy here," she said. "To get more phone calls to schedule the rides and cover seniors in need would be hard."

Consentino said he works about 15 to 20 hours a week for elderly affairs, so he doesn't understand how one person can do his job, plus another job.

"If this came about, the Elderly Affairs program will diminish," he said. "It can't function without us running it."

He said the money to help seniors with prescriptions, ramps and other medical expenses comes from a separate charitable fund that is not affiliated with the town.

Selectmen could not be reached for comment.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Atkinson Voter Education Seminar


TO: All Voters of the Town of Atkinson

FR: Gary Brownfield, Spokesperson – Atkinson Taxpayer Committee

RE: Atkinson Voter Education Seminar & Signing of Citizen Petition Warrant Articles

Location: Atkinson Community Center, 4 Main St., Atkinson NH

Date & Time: Thursday, January 5th, 7:30pm to 9pm.

At this Seminar, attendees will have the opportunity to sign new Citizen Petition Warrant Articles (or bring one of your own). The deadline for submission is Monday, January 9th.

Mr. Gary Brownfield will speak regarding the importance of citizen participation, given that Citizen Petition Warrant Articles now go to the voters without any corruption or change in language. Also, engage with you in a dialogue about the new State proposal to change Town Meetings, and in so doing, enhance transparent town government.

Mr. Ed Naile and Mr. Jorge Mesa-Tejada, CNHT Directors, will give an intriguing Atkinson Voter Education Seminar and will cover the 91-A Law, and how to protect the ballot of the legal voter and the power and authority of the legitimate ballot.

CNHT – (Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers) is dedicated to preserving the individual and political freedoms you enjoy in New Hampshire. With an effective statewide effort CNHT seeks to reduce the size of government at all levels, put a stop to judicial activism, provide students and parents with a choice of educational opportunities, expand our job market, and protect our ever shrinking property rights.)

January 2, 2012 11:17 PM