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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lone candidate named utility interim CEO

NASHUA – The Board of Aldermen on Tuesday hired the sole candidate presented to be the interim chief executive officer of Pennichuck Corp., once the city acquires the company.

Also at the meeting, the board by voice vote authorized the mayor to give prior approval to the proposed contract between Pennichuck Water Works and the utility’s largest single customer, the Anheuser-Busch plant in Merrimack.

That would ensure Anheuser-Busch of the city’s approval while Pennichuck Corp. transitions from a private company to city ownership.

In a 10-4 vote, consultant John Patenaude, who advised the city through its efforts to negotiate a stock purchase of the water company, was appointed the interim CEO.

Patenaude would serve no longer than three years and receive an annual salary of $190,000.

Opponents to his appointment said their “no” votes hinged largely on the fact that Patenaude was the only candidate presented.

Voting against Patenaude were Aldermen-at-Large Barbara Pressly, David Deane and Mark Cookson and Ward 4 Alderman Arthur Craffey Jr.

Pressly said Patenaude is “honest, honorable and straightforward,” though she later noted that because he’s coming from the corporate culture, he likely would operate “on the secretive side”

Pressly criticized Lozeau for “hiring from within” and not publicly advertising the interim position.”

Ward 1 Alderman Kathy Vitale challenged Pressly’s assertion that Patenaude would be secretive just because of his corporate background.

Alderman-at-Large Ben Clemons said “it’s a shame” that some people think Patenaude would want to be operating in a secretive way since Patenaude never gave any hint that would be his style.

“As a whole, I was disappointed with the questions asked of Mr. Patenaude at the Personnel and Administrative Affairs Committee. There was very little critical thought put into the questions asked of him,” Cookson said.

“It was one of the easiest interviews for a CEO position I’ve ever seen,” Cookson said.

Clemons noted that Cookson was at that committee meeting.

“I wonder why he didn’t ask the questions he thought should have been asked,” Clemons said.

Ward 6 Alderman Paul Chasse Jr., said he thought the committee asked excellent questions.

Patenaude isn’t receiving bonus pay or a severance package, and he would be in the position no longer than three years, Chasse said.

“As an interim, he is a great choice,” Chasse said.

In the other matter related to the city’s acquisition of Pennichuck, the proposed 10-year agreement between Pennichuck Water Works and Anheuser-Busch would be the fourth contract between the utility and the Budweiser brewery.

Under its terms, the utility would maintain the capability to deliver 1 million gallons a day.

The based monthly fixed rate would be $30,952.54 per month and a charge of $1,830 per meter per month.

State regulators have already granted a temporary rate hike of 10.8 percent to the utility while it’s still operating as an independent company.

The process of acquiring the company is likely to take a year and must be approved by two-thirds of Pennichuck shareholders as well as by state regulators.

Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or