Methuen and North Andover Deputy Fire Chiefs Graduate From Chief Fire Officer Management Training

(Additional photographs below.)

Methuen Deputy Fire Chief David Toto and North Andover Deputy Fire Chief Graham Rowe were among more than three dozen fire service leaders from across Massachusetts who graduated Friday from the 28th class of the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy’s Chief Fire Officer Management Training Program. The four-month program for new chief officers and chief officer candidates is delivered jointly by the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy and the University of Massachusetts Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management. Through classroom instruction and out-of-class assignments, the course delivers intensive training in the non-fire suppression aspects of managing a municipal fire department. “The Chief Fire Officer program is a tremendous opportunity for new chiefs and rising officers,” said state Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey, who graduated from the program in 2002. “The rigorous instruction in such a wide variety of topics will help these graduates provide the leadership that their departments and communities deserve.

Corporators Approve Combining Parents of Newburyport Bank and Pentucket Bank

Corporators of both of the parent companies of Newburyport Bank and Pentucket Bank Wednesday gave unanimous approvals to plans for a single mutual holding company. Following the favorable votes, the banks are seeking regulatory approvals from the Board of Bank Incorporation and the Federal Reserve Bank, the final step in the process of combining their mutual holding companies into one. As WHAV reported in December, the holding company allows the two institutions to share costs while each bank maintains separate identities. “We couldn’t be more pleased to have the support of our Corporators. It is a huge step forward in the exciting journey toward finalizing our single mutual holding and we are proud of their endorsement and understanding of the abundant benefits that this strategic partnership will yield for the employees, customers and communities of both independent community banks,” said Newburyport Bank President and CEO Lloyd Hamm.

Sen. Markey Secures $4.2 Million for Future Merrimack River Ferry; Specifics Not Yet Available

U.S. Sen. Edward Markey last week said he helped bring $4.2 million for MeVa—Merrimack Valley Transit—and more than $6.6 million for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to better connect families, visitors, and commuters in Greater Boston and the Merrimack Valley “through resilient and improved passenger ferry service.”

MeVa, formerly the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority, operates public bus service in cities of the lower Merrimack Valley, including Haverhill, Methuen and Lawrence. Specifics about the ferry boats, routes and expected start dates are not yet developed and were not mentioned in the announcement. The senator reported only the federal grants will “support passenger ferry service and upgrade infrastructure on the waters of our Commonwealth so that it’s smooth-sailing for our riders.”

Markey said in a press release, “Whether traveling by bus, rail, train or ferry, Massachusetts families and visitors deserve safe and resilient public transportation that connects our towns and cities.”

Information About Help Paying Winter Heating Bills Focus of Meeting Feb. 2

Those seeking relief from high winter heating bills can learn more about qualifying for assistance from Haverhill-based Community Action during an upcoming “Heating Help Event.”

Community Action’s Energy Assistance Program provides eligible individuals and families financial assistance to help pay for heating bills. Information will be presented Thursday, Feb. 2, from 3-6 p.m., at the Haverhill Citizens Center, 10 Welcome St. Residents are advised to bring photo identification, list of all household members, the name of their heating company and account number, their rental or mortgage statement and proof of income for the prior 30 days.

Rail Commuters to Use Shuttle Buses on Reading to Boston Leg Feb. 4-12

Those who use commuter rail to travel to Greater Boston should plan on transferring to shuttle buses in Reading and facing certain restrictions during a nine-day period in February. The MBTA reported Thursday Haverhill Commuter Rail Line trains will be replaced with free, accessible shuttle bus service between Haverhill and Reading Stations from Saturday, Feb. 4, through Sunday, Feb 12, to perform Automatic Train Control work. The work is a federally mandated safety system that sends signals to trains about potentially unsafe conditions, automatically slowing and stopping a train if needed. Passengers should note bicycles are not allowed on shuttle buses and regular Commuter Rail fares will be collected between Reading and North Station.

Commission Calls Methuen’s Use of Former Councilor as Police Officer ‘Brazen Example of Abuse’

The state Civil Service Commission ruled Thursday the former Methuen police chief’s use of a former city council chairman as a full-time police officer is a “most brazen example of abuse which occurred (in plain sight)” of using non-civil service personnel in the department. Further, commissioners said former “Chief (Joseph E.) Solomon and other City officials from prior administrations knowingly submitted false information to the civil service unit of the state’s Human Resources Division” and “stonewalled requests for public records.”

The report said the appointment of Councilor Sean J. Fountain, a former North Andover firefighter, as an intermittent police officer was “improper” because he was not certified by the state’s Municipal Police Training Committee to serve as a full-time police officer, there is no evidence he completed a physical or medical examination, was over the city’s own age restriction of 35 at the time of appointment and resided outside of Methuen in violation of city policies. Commissioners, led by Chair Christopher C. Bowman, lauded Mayor Neil Perry for “taking several steps to investigate—and ultimately end—the city’s use of non-civil service intermittent police officers,” and singled out for praise City Council Public Safety Chair Michael Simard and Personnel Coordinator Jill Stackelin. On the other hand, they wrote former Mayors Stephen N. Zanni and James P. Jajuga “failed to provide sufficient oversight to prevent the unlawful employment of Fountain and other full-time intermittent police officers.”

Perry issued his own statement Thursday, saying, “I pledge that the city looks forward to continuing to work cooperatively with the Commission as it complies with the Commission’s orders and will implement additional best practices for Civil Service hiring and compliance.” The mayor added, “Finally, I wish to make it clear that the City’s previously-reported investigation into the training credentials of Sean Fountain, initiated prior to the issuance of the Commission’s report, remains open and ongoing.”

The Civil Service Commission ordered the city to name candidates potentially denied appointments as a civil service police or reserve police officers “for appropriate relief on their behalf” and show controls to prevent repeats of such illegal appointments. It also recommended the city “continue to explore legal action against Joseph Solomon, as well as Sean Fountain, notwithstanding Chief Solomon’s retirement and Sean Fountain’s resignation” and “implement a streamlined and transparent system for processing and responding to public records requests.”

Purported Family Member Says More to Plaistow, N.H., Three-Car Crash Wednesday

A purported family member said a naked man, allegedly involved in a three-car accident Wednesday in Plaistow, N.H., is “battling mental illness.”

The social media remark responds to Plaistow Police’s press release involving the arrest of Timothy O’Rourke of Danville, N.H., and chastises sharing the post, in the words of the commenter, “so that people could judge, make jokes and leave cruel comments.”

Plaistow Police said it dispatched officers Wednesday morning just before 9 a.m. to the intersection of Routes 125 and 121A where they found “found multiple vehicles with heavy damage,” but no serious injuries. A press release said witnesses blamed the driver of a Black Jeep Compass for causing the crash who then fled on foot. “Within minutes officers were able to locate the driver, running behind Main Street homes, wearing no clothes and coated in his own blood,” police wrote. O’Rourke was charged with driving while under the influence, resisting arrest, conduct after an accident and two counts each of indecent exposure and simple assault.

Haverhill Restaurant Family Hits the Bullseye at Par 28 Complex with Golf Simulators and Axe Throwing

A family, well-known in Haverhill and Merrimack Valley dining circles, is tying together food, drinks, golf simulators and axe throwing in an expansive entertainment complex in nearby Salem, N.H.

Jim Tomacchio and his sons, who own and operate STACKS in downtown Haverhill, developed PAR 28 two months ago at the former Coca-Cola bottling plan at 23 S. Broadway, in Salem, N.H. Tomacchio tells WHAV they actually stumbled on the idea while searching for a warehouse for another family business—21-year-old Stat Delivery Services. While looking at spaces, his son thought one spot might be more suitable for golf simulators. “Then, we got a consultant from Trackman, who makes these, come in, look at the whole site and say, ‘Yes, this is doable.’ So, we ran with it and then my boys started talking about other things we could do in here. One was, obviously a bar, then a coal-fired oven and kitchen and then the axe throwing,” he explains. They went on to build out the space in three and a half months.