1999 -- The Year In Review

Return to 'Years in Review' Table of Contents

Compiled by John Hirtle, Production Manager

Atlantic News, Thursday, December 27, 1999

As the final month of the final year of the final century of the second Christian millennium draws to a close, we have to pause and reflect on the many diverse events which have brought us to this point. This has been a year when we have watched many familiar faces and places depart, while new ones come forth to take their place or stake their own unique niche in our communities.


The year opened with high hopes for the future, as Hampton's Police Chief Wrenn unveiled the plans for a new police station to be constructed on the site of Hampton's old town offices. The town offices themselves are preparing for the eventual move to the former Citizen's Bank building just down the road, a process that is delayed for a good portion of the year as the former bank building needs some work done to make it suitable for the needs of the town.

January brought the news that the Hampton Playhouse would open for a 52nd season under the new management of Michael Wakeen of the Irondale Reality Trust. However, long-term plans for the property remain unclear as the plans for a housing development on the property are sketched out.

The Friends of Centennial Hall in North Hampton continued the work of raising funds to restore the historic building with a variety of fund drives and performances as the structure is slowly repaired and modernized.

As local elections drew closer, the issues which would define the candidates arose, notably the question of having police officers in the schools. Views varied as Hampton Selectman Bonnie Searle declared it was "crazy to have an officer in the schools" while selectman Virginia Bridle observed "It's not crazy, it's preventative medicine."

The Seacoast's precious marshlands received attention in virtually every community as a variety of projects embarked to repair and restore the saltwater marshes.

New license plates featuring the Old Man of the Mountain debuted across the state, following an apparent national trend of having decorative plates. By the end of the year, the old white and green plates will be history, save for a few 'vanity' plates.

Hampton Falls saw the rise of a 100 foot telecommunications tower for cellular telephones, and the transfer of fire dispatch duties to Hampton.

Anthony "Tony" Cosenza a noted Hampton Beach businessman passed away on January 11 in Florida.


In Concord, a storm was brewing, as the State struggled to find a solution to the so-called Claremont Crisis, where a coalition of "poor" towns had banded together to challenge the way New Hampshire funded education. The courts found against the state, which in turn, groped for a solution which would not violate "The Pledge". Among the proposed solutions are a statewide property tax, a proposed which dismays locals. The issue continued to grow and dominate the headlines for much of the year.

Despite the bid for educational equality, the Claremont issue dogs local schools who are unable to forecast what their budgets will be, as legislators drag their feet in finding a solution.

Hampton bid a fond farewell/hello to Fire Chief William "Skip" Sullivan. After a thirty-four year career, twelve of which were spent in Hampton, the Chief felt it was time to hang up his helmet. However, Mr. Sullivan is hardly content to idle his days away in retirement and takes on a new challenge by entering the race for Hampton Selectman.

Beach Plum Way retained the Hampton's interest, as the issue of widening the narrow road continued to arise at the selectman's meetings.

Seabrook began videotaping some critical meetings to help spread the word on an assortment of important issues which faced the town. By this time, Seabrook has been running on a "default budget" for several years, and needs to either increase taxes or slash spending to community programs. The videotaped meetings air on the public access channel in March.

The Winnacunnet Cheerleaders seized first place at the New England 1999 Regional Championship for their outstanding performance.

The month drew to a close as Hampton's Fire Department put its new boat to the test, rescuing a windsurfer in distress a half mile off the beach.


The month began as the fates of political fortunes and projects were decided. In Hampton Virginia Bridle and William "Skip" Sullivan were elected as selectmen, as funds for the much needed Route 1 reconstruction was approved by voters, as well as funds for the Citizens Bank upgrades and salt marsh restoration. The much needed police station plans and the town's operating budget were not approved.

North Hampton saw the approval of funds for the recycling center, and both articles passed for the school. A town newsletter and the installation of street lights at Route One and Hobbs Road were turned down.

Hampton Falls saw the purchase of computers for the school passed, but the operating budget for the school itself was not passed, possibly due to the Claremont Crisis.

Winnacunnet High School saw the departure of Varsity Basketball Coach Jack Ford after 25 years of service.

The Hampton Selectmen received an unexpected call from Governor Shaheen, who informed them of an anticipated $6 per $1000 property tax to be used to fund education, in addition to a bewildering array of other taxes. As one of the "Property Rich" towns, Hampton stands to be hit hard by this evaluation. North Hampton reacts to the funding proposals as well, notably a proposed income tax which, while defeated, may be put back on the table.

Even as the state wrestles with the school funding issue, SAU 21 begins to make plans for the worst. On the deadline day (April 1) should no decision be reached by the legislators, pink slips will be issued to all teachers in the district. To compound the problem, Massachusetts is offering attractive bonuses and wages to lure New Hampshire teachers out of the state.

Seabrook deals with noise complaints at the Bullpen Sports Bar, which results in a confrontation between the owner and the board.

Lovers of the theatre are given a double treat as Winnacunnet High School puts on the "Just Sensational" Mame on its stage, as the Hampton Playhouse announces its summer lineup of plays.

Hank Lipe of Windham NH is appointed Hampton's new Fire Chief.

Hampton's selectmen are sworn in, choose Fred Rice as their Chairman and opt to make their meetings bi-monthly (once every two weeks). This change in venue is short lived, as it turns out there are many important matters to keep the selectmen occupied.

Dottie Trofatter, who had worked in the Citizen's Bank since it was built chose to retire as the bank moved out of the building to make way for the town offices.

March 19 marked the 50th anniversary of the loss of Hampton's old town hall to fire in 1949. The temporary offices that were built around the surviving town vault are only now being vacated for the Citizen's Bank building.

In an effort to trim the town's budget, Hampton's selectmen toy with cutting recycling. Fortunately this idea is dropped, although plans are made to suspend curbside collection in May. Other budget-cutting ideas are aired, but none are acted upon.

Seabrook receives a proposal for the construction of a 12 screen theatre near Wal-Mart, which is approved.

Wetlands continued to be an issue, as construction projects threaten to encroach on them, and restoration efforts continue in towns along the coast. Worries about road construction debris polluting the waters in Seabrook are also aired.


Without a solution for the Claremont Crisis in sight, educators and staff members of SAU 21 are given pink slips, as are all teachers across the state. While this does not mean school is out, it does mean that the education system will cease to exist at the end of this school year is a solution is not settled upon.

The Hampton Water Works water tank at Hampton Beach is repainted for the first time in 1983. In addition to a new paint job, antennas will be added to aid cellular telephone users making calls on the beach. At least one resident protests the addition of these antennas, fearing what the electromagnetic radiation might do to his health, but the installation in approved nonetheless.

A disastrous fire strikes Hampton Beach on April 10, which destroyed the Smith & Gilmore Fishing Pier, which was also home of the Harbor House Restaurant and Salty's Lobster Pound. Portions of the structure were constructed out of Hampton's now vanished "Mile-Long Wooden Bridge" which was taken down in 1949 for the Neil Underwood Memorial Bridge which now links Hampton Beach to Sun Valley and Seabrook. Eastman's and Gauron's fishing fleets lend equipment to the Smith & Gilmore fleet which lost everything in the blaze just as they were preparing for a promising season.

After examining the options, Hampton decides to continue curbside collection of recyclables is more efficient than letting them end up in the trash.

In a wise move, Route One's reconstruction is put on hold to avoid causing traffic tie ups during the busy tourist season. For now, moving utility poles back from the road and preparing the road for construction take priority.

Thanks to an unusually mild winter, and a warm spring, the beach awakens early this year. Eastman's Bar & Grill opens in Seabrook, as Mama Leone's reopens their doors on Hampton Beach.. In Hampton, the Courtyard opens at the Inn of Hampton.

Hampton Falls wrestled with the matter of street numbers which don't add up in some areas of town, where odd and even numbers appear on both sides of the street rather than odd on one and even on the other. This safety issue, as well as the lowering of the speed limit on some roads was considered.

Carolyn (Allen) Bates, a 43-year veteran of the Hampton Post Office hangs up her mail-sack as she retires.

In North Hampton, the Friends of Centennial Hall hold a play in the hall, "Our Town" to help raise money for the historic building's restoration.

Nearly a month after the deadline, Concord comes up with a solution for the Claremont Crisis, using a statewide property tax to pay for education. Education advocates, particularly those from the Claremont Coalition are still unhappy with the resolution, and plan to take steps to solve the plans shortcomings. The teachers of course, are 'rehired'.


Hampton Falls begins making plans to enlarge or replace their overcrowded 130 year old library.

Seabrook saw the retirement of Fire Chief Jerry Brown and the appointment of Keith Sanborn to replace him. The appointment raises some protests as townspeople wish to have a special election to elect a new fire chief, however the selectmen decide this is not required.

The Hampton Water Works sets into motion plans for a 38% water rate increase for residences in Hampton, North Hampton and part of Rye. This is the first such increase since 1991, and comes only after the Water Works has made a significant investment in four new facilities to help meet the area's demand for water. However, this fact does not set aside criticism from Hampton Selectmen about the increase, nor will these improvements be able to avert a coming water ban due to an unusually dry winter and spring.

The United Soccer Club unexpectedly raised a bone of contention with Hampton Selectmen about its nonprofit status when it generously offered to pay taxes on its tax exempt land.

State Senator Beverly Hollingworth informs worried property owners that the so-called "Claremont Solution" will have a small impact on Hampton taxpayers for the first two years. She concedes though that it is "just another finger in the dyke; it is not over by a long shot."

Winnacunnet High School prepared to say farewell to another face as band director Stanley W. Bednarz retires after a long 38-year career at the school.

Local recreation departments make plans for the busy summer months ahead. The Men's Softball League in Hampton begins to play.

As the nation reeled from school violence, steps were taken to prepare SAU 21 schools for such an incident. Among the stratagems was the rescue of the School Resource Officer position, which has been voted down in March by voters.

The body of Kevin Doherty was found in a car at the North Hampton Beach. A probe concludes that this was a suicide, and that he may be connected to the murder of a woman in Pelham NH earlier that day.

Painters converged on the North Hampton Bandstand to give it a new coat of paint, as schoolchildren and scouts held a large yard sale on the Common on May 22.

A stoplight on the corner of Lafayette Road and Atlantic Avenue is clipped by a tractor trailer truck, and falls over. While no one is injured, the toppled stoplight offers an odd sight as unfazed motorists continued to drive under it.

Donna Duhamel was welcomed to Hampton as the town's new finance director.

Hampton Falls moved ahead with plans for the construction of a bandstand on the town common. Hampton has gotten bit by the bandstand bug as well, but is proceeding more slowly than Hampton Falls.

Memorial Day ushered in the summer tourist season as Hampton Police vowed that the rules at the beach would be "strictly" enforced.

The Park Avenue Park was preserved from parking by patrons. Located next to the Tuck Museum, the small park was spared the fate of becoming a parking lot for Tuck Field.

The Seabreeze Village in Seabrook breezed through approval of an addition to the property.

The First Congregational Church of Hampton called Reverend Deborah B. Knowlton to become the church's pastor.

A labor shortage looms on the Seacoast as Summer gets underway. Many businesses are either understaffed or are opened for limited hours through the season.


The Hampton Playhouse kicked off its 52nd Season with "Breaking Legs".

The "KI (Potassium Iodide) Pill" made its debut on the Seacoast in the event of an accident at Seabrook Station.

An "Anonymous Donor" provides funds to station three police officers at Hampton's schools (Winnacunnet, HAJH, and one to rotate between Marston and Centre schools) for the remainder of the school year. Hampton's selectmen also supported Police Chief Wrenn's quest to have a new police station constructed. The one very vocal dissenter to both these proposals was Bonnie Searle.

On June 16 a disastrous fire on Hampton Beach destroys The Old Salt Restaurant, Cecile's Gift Shop and the Springfield Motor Lodge just as the busy summer tourist season is getting ready to go into high gear. The fire accidentally starts between the two buildings and is only contained after both buildings are completely involved. The five alarm fire sends a column of black smoke over the beach, and captures the attention of the regional media.

Parking problems with students on roads near Winnacunnet High prompts a strict no parking ban on those streets from September to June.

Claremont continues to haunt the Seacoast as the State adds up their figures for the new property tax. The terms "Donor" towns (such as Hampton and Rye) and "Recipient" towns starts to appear.

Hampton's Planning Board hears the proposal for the Playhouse Development, and approves it with minor adjustments, while ensuring that the Hampton Playhouse remains standing.

A voluntary water ban is issued in Hampton as the Northeast is caught in the grips of a drought.

The North Hampton Bandstand Concert season begins.

Presidential hopefuls begin appearing on the Seacoast.

Local libraries start the "Once Upon a Summer" reading program.

The Old Salt staff relocate to the Whale's Tail restaurant in the Hampton Beach Casino where they will carry on the restaurant for the summer and into the foliage season.


An update for Hampton's building codes was reviewed as the focus turned on some less well maintained properties at Hampton Beach. The building codes have not been revised since 1993. Hampton's building inspector Dan Vincent sought more authority to enforce existing codes.

Tide Mill Road residents seek to end or divert the flow of 18-wheelers which use their road.

Seabrook prepared to enforce the town's 20-foot driveway ordinance in the fall, as some residents (notably at the beach) have paved larger sections of their front yards than permitted to create their own private parking lots.

The state forces Seabrook to revalue the town by 2001. It has been 13 years since the last reevaluation (which is supposed to take place every five years) but voters have voted down funds for it in the past three elections. Town Manager E. Russell Bailey takes steps to start the reevaluation process, which may play a key role in Seabrook's position in the State's new property tax scheme.

Hampton Resident Clara Gale celebrates her one hundredth birthday.

Work begins on the rescue of the Blake Cooper Shop, a historic structure dating from the 1800's on the Wayside Farm in Hampton.

A garden tour of North Hampton's homes is held to raise funds for Centennial Hall's restoration.

The foundation for the new McDonald's in Hampton is poured; however, construction inexplicably stops, leaving the slab and some equipment on the site.

The remains of the Smith & Gilmore fishing pier are leveled.

Following the June 16 fire, talks begin on considering the future of Hampton Beach as the devastated businesses assess their losses.

The Hampton Falls Library starts a project to save and store the texts of rare town history books on the computer. Hampton's Lane Library already has a similar project underway as Dow's History of Hampton is typed and put on their website along with John M. Holman's interesting historic articles.

The New Hampshire Academy of Performing Arts expands into North Hampton's Centennial Hall. Their long term goal is to help renovate the hall, and open it for public performances.


The remains of the fire ravaged Old Salt and Springfield Motor Lodge are leveled. The resulting "Dark Area" effectively splits the beachfront area in two.

School officials from across Rockingham met in Brentwood to review what had happened in Columbine High School, and suggest tactics to avoid such a tragedy from happening here.

Michelle Langa, Director of Special Education in SAU 21 leaves for Rye.

The USS Hampton arrives in Portsmouth for its second namesake visit to the Seacoast.

The Seacoast comes to grips with Pokemon, the latest kids craze from Japan. Most schools decide to ban the addictive game from their grounds early on.

Mandatory water use restrictions are imposed by Hampton Water Works. Already, Seabrook residents are under a strict ban, backed with the threat of having their water shut off if the violate it. Hampton adopts a similar policy. Portsmouth, and other towns further north which normally do not have water shortages also impose their own water bans as the dry spell continues.

Judeann Langlois becomes Winnacunnet High School's new principal.

With summer in full swing, Jet Skis again cause problems off the beaches and in the Harbor.

Restoration efforts continue on the James House.

North Hampton approves the Little River Salt Marsh Restoration.

Governor Shaheen has declared the burnt out buildings on Hampton Beach a "Disaster Area" allowing the United States Small Business Administration to give disaster relief loans to the businesses destroyed in the June 16 fire at Hampton Beach. Curiously, the victims of the earlier April 10 fire at the Smith & Gilmore Fishing Pier are excluded from this generous offer.

The Seabrook police have an awkward time dealing with an 89 year old grandmother charged with trespassing as she looked for recyclables in the trash. The woman chooses to fight these charges in court.

Grace Fogg of Seabrook celebrated her 100th birthday.

Erosion along Seabrook's shores, and the public pier causes concern, as does the silting up of Hampton Harbor. However, the issue is tied up with red tape and studies so that no action may be taken to rectify the situation.

The lights go out in North Hampton as a truck pulls down low wires along Route One.

After 27 years, Hampton's Prep Shop owners decide to close the business down. Bib 'n Crib remains open.

North Hampton's police department receives a grant for laptop computers to be used in their patrol cars.

Hampton's Police Chief Wrenn is appointed to the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council.

Hampton's quest for funds to support police in the schools takes a strange twist as the town applies for a Federal "COPS in Schools" grant. Selectman Bonnie Searle, the sole dissenter to this program, writes a letter to the Justice Department informing them of the pre-Columbine vote in the last town election, and suggesting that the information sent to them by the other selectmen and the chief of police is incorrect. A letter is swiftly prepared and sent to the Justice Department by the majority to counter Searle's opinion.

Hampton Beach building codes are hashed out, as burnt out beach businesses prepare to rebuild. Of concern is the sewer plant, which is currently over capacity.

More parking is added at Eaton Park.

Ground is broken for the new 40 unit building at the Seabreeze Village in Seabrook.


Centennial Hall plans a fund raising yard sale. A dinner concert and dance is also planned.

Schools reopen across the Seacoast.

The Seacoast Credit Union opens a branch inside Winnacunnet High School for students to use.

Seabrook's dump completes its modernizations, and is ready for the next century.

The historic Blake Cooper Shop is moved to a new location next to Hampton's old Blacksmith Shop [on Barbour Road].

The Summer Season wraps up with the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival and Senior Appreciation Days. The latter event is threatened by Hurricane Floyd, which blows out before the event. Businesses start to close up for the season.

Route One reconstruction begins in earnest, as the battle lines are drawn. Years of complacency are revealed as surveyors discover scores of Hampton businesses located along the road have signs erected where the road's expansion will go. While overjoyed with the prospect of repairing the road, these business owners are outraged by the impending loss of their signs, which are under fire in some cases by the Town Building Inspector.

The "Platypus" an amphibious touring vehicle owned by the Eastman Fleet is approved for us on Hampton Roads and waters.

Restoration of the Little River Salt Marsh in North Hampton continued as the Southworth's donated a portion of it to the Audubon Society.

As the drought continues, the state encourages conservation of water.

Despite Hampton Selectman Bonnie Searle's best intentions, Hampton is awarded a $250,000 "COPS in Schools" Grant.

Seabrook takes steps to join the slowly forming coalition of communities dedicated to fighting the Claremont Solution.

Jerry McConnell, founder of Hampton Beach's Senior Appreciation Days is selected as the recipient of this year's Joseph D. Vaughan Award for Rockingham County.

Hampton's Recreation Department moves out of the future town hall while renovations are done.

Winnacunnet High School starts making plans for future expansions as it is running low on space. The current student population of 1,100 is expected to rise to 1,400-1,500 students in a few years. Modular units are brought in to help solve the problem.

Sidewalks are installed in Seabrook from the Elementary School to Washington Street.

The Lane Library renames the Children's Room "Katie's Room" in honor of Mrs. Katie Anderson, a library trustee of 18 years.


Route One Merchants with complaints about the loss of their signs, are informed that they are too late.

In response to the overwhelmed sewer plant, a sewer moratorium is put into place, effectively ending any new construction not already approved in Hampton. The plant, which was not overwhelmed this year due to the drought, needs to be enlarged to bring it up to capacity or the town could face stiff EPA fines. The issue will be decided in the upcoming March elections.

North Hampton School received a visit from music stars Hootie and the Blowfish, Sister Hazel and Edwin McCain.

Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church in Hampton celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Hampton celebrates Founder's Day.

Water restrictions were eased a bit, as the Hampton Water Works heard from citizens concerned with the water rate increase.

Dan Hansen, a North Hampton Eagle Scout takes charge of erecting a "Welcome to North Hampton" Sign on Lafayette Road near the Hampton border.

Hampton's Building Inspector Dan Vincent appealed to the board of selectmen to give him authority to enforce the building codes -- a power he is denied due to a typographical error in existing codes. To show the need, he brought photographic proof of the many violation s around town, particularly at the beach, ranging from hazardous stairways to rat infestations.

The "Playhouse Village" returns to the drawing board, as the access road to the development causes some concern. Regardless of the final plan, the construction will not be able to proceed until the end of Hampton's sewer moratorium.

Fleet Bank, which is divesting itself of some local branch banks as part of a merger, finds itself under attack by First and Ocean National Bank.

Bonnie Searle questions the actions of the Town Attorney, in regards to a letter sent to the Town Manager. She was assured it was all a matter of public record.

The Claremont Solution raises more questions as Hampton is removed as donor town status in Year One, while Hampton Falls and North Hampton get grants.

Seabrook finds that the long overdue town reevaluation will cost more than originally planned to have it done right.

A bomb threat is made at Seabrook Elementary School.

The "Phased in" plan for the Claremont solution is voted unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court, and all towns are hit equally hard by the Statewide property tax. Seabrook prepares to fight the tax.

Rich Sawyer and Tom Linane are named Hampton School Resource officers as Hampton accepts the "COPS in Schools" grant.

A small fire at the Ashworth is quickly put out.

As October came to a close, Glen French, the President of the Hampton Beach Area Chamber of Commerce for the last 17 years announced his resignation.


SAU 21 considers shutting down the schools if the State does not supply them with the operating funds needed. The anti-tax coalition continues to grow, as Portsmouth takes the lead in the fight.

Hampton Falls receives bids for the construction of a gazebo

The water ban is declared over.

Hampton's Building inspector continues to try enforcing building codes

Hampton's new Centre School addition is dedicated on November 6.

Up With People perform at the Winnacunnet High School auditorium.

Hampton Falls takes a firm stand and says no the the state taxes imposed on them by the Claremont Decision, as they refuse to even send out the state's portion of the tax bill.

Media One, the local cable company, is taken over by AT&T.

Hampton's town offices start the move to their new home in the former Citizen's Bank building. The final selectman's meeting is held in the old offices as selectmen past an present gather to share their memories about the place. The Planning Board is the last to meet in the old offices.

Hampton's Capital Improvements Committee puts forth suggestions to be considered at March's elections, notably, the construction of a new police station, enlargement of the sewer plant, and school improvements.

North Hampton rejects the adoption of an elderly housing ordinance.

Seabrook disallows body piercing except when performed by a licensed physician.

Hampton chooses not to send the state taxes imposed on them by the Claremont Decision, rather keeping them in an escrow account. Other towns joining the growing rebellion include Rye and Newington.

Parents ask for grade specific guidelines for SAU 21 students.

Presidential hopefuls flock to the Seacoast as the state's first in the nation Presidential Primary approaches.

Hampton officially opens its new town offices. First item on the agenda is the sewer moratorium. Among the items given as 'officewarming' gifts is a set of wooden nickels from Hampton's Tercentenary celebration in 1938, generously donated by John and Connie Holman and the Atlantic News.

North Hampton's Deputy Fire Chief Christopher LeClaire leaves for Portsmouth.

Hampton's web designer is deleted, as his actions raise some questions among selectmen.

Fires during the Thanksgiving holiday damage a Hampton and a Seabrook home.


Hampton's Building Inspector Dan Vincent finds his contract terminated. Despite popular support, the Hampton Board of Selectmen refuse to reinstate him.

A farewell testimonial is held for Glen French, the President of the Hampton Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, who also performed as the Grand Marshall of this year's Hampton Christmas Parade.

Firefighters across the Seacoast go to Worcester to grieve the loss of six firefighters in a fire.

Hampton Falls breaks ground for their new bandstand on December 7

Following warnings from the state, Hampton Falls backs down on its original stand to collect the State's property taxes, and sends out a second tax bill. However, the collected money will be held in an escrow account pending a resolution to the tax situation.

Studies on Hampton Harbor and the Seabrook coast drag on as erosion takes their toll.

North Hampton makes known their disapproval of the state wide property tax, and starts to explore ways to withhold the money without damaging the schools.

A new Playhouse development is proposed as a forum is held to decide the fate of the Hampton Playhouse. By most indications, a 53rd season will take place.

The Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant reminds everyone that is is prepared for Year 2000 compliancy. However, extra staff will be on duty to ensure nothing out of the ordinary happens on New Year's Eve.