Hampton Union: 2010's Top Stories
By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, December 31, 2010
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
2010's top Hampton Union stories:
The year 2010 had some historic moments; a fire destroyed a block of businesses, including the Surf Motel, leaving another vacant lot at the beach; Hampton voters cut ties with School Administrative Unit 21 leading the way for the town to go on its own; and work commenced on a multi-million redevelopment project that will change the face of Hampton Beach.
It was also the year when a Hampton resident became part of the Republican Party wave and ousted a multi-term Portsmouth incumbent to become the new state senator of District 24.
On the international level, a Seabrook native became an Olympic hero.
Here is the Hampton Union's list of the most notable local events that occurred in 2010:
Beach party kicks off ground-breaking
Advocates of the Hampton Beach Redevelopment Project held a beach party in May to celebrate the official ground-breaking of the $14.5 million project.
Gov. John Lynch was one of many officials on hand who put a shovel into the ground to start the project to construct two new bathhouses and a new Seashell Stage.
"My hope is that this investment will really spark the rejuvenation of the state park and Hampton Beach," said Lynch.
The project was funded in the state's capital budget in 2009.
John Nyhan, chairman of the Hampton Beach Area Commission, said the ground-breaking was a dream come true, made possible by many supporters who never gave up.
The commission worked behind the scenes lobbying for the project, arguing that such an investment would generate more revenue for the state.
"This project started with dreams," said Nyhan. "Those dreams led to ideas and passion from a community to say we are going to make this work."
George Bald, Department of Resources and Economic Development commissioner, said "tenacity" of supporters is why this project was approved. He noted they first had to get the governor on board, then get the project included in the capital budget and finally push to get it approved by the House and Senate.
Fire destroys block of businesses
It was the worst fire to hit Hampton Beach since the 1999 fire that destroyed the Old Salt Restaurant. Destroyed in this fire were the Surf Motel, Mrs. Mitchell's Gift Shop, and the Happy Hampton Arcade.
Hampton firefighters, with help from 40 fire departments from as far away as Laconia, vigorously battled the blaze that erupted in the first floor of the motel close to midnight on Feb. 25.
The blaze was fueled by 90-plus mph winds from a nor'easter.
When the fire was finally brought under control after 4½ hours early Friday morning, Feb. 26, two other properties were determined to be total losses.
An additional six to eight properties were damaged, including the Moulton Hotel.
A cause for the fire still has not been determined or announced.
But the motel and gift shop are trying to rebuild.
Hampton votes to leave SAU 21
The third time was the charm for the Hampton School District in its bid to withdraw from the six-district SAU 21.
Hampton's attempt to establish its own SAU was approved at the March 9 election by a vote of 1,724-1,120. With a 60.66 percent majority, the proposal barely achieved the 60 percent (or three-fifths) required for passage.
The state Board of Education officially approved the withdrawal effective July 1, 2011, and designated the Hampton School District as SAU 90.
"It's truly an historic moment," said School Board Chairman Rosemary Lamers. "Ninety years ago we joined SAU 21 and interestingly enough starting July 1, 2011, we will be known as SAU 90."
Kathleen Murphy was hired by the board to serve as the first superintendent of SAU 90.
Hampton had tried to withdraw previously — once in 2004 and again in 2007. However, the March election was the first at which the three-fifths voting majority was obtained.
Supporters of the withdrawal effort have argued that Hampton pays the lion's share of the SAU budget, but doesn't get enough in return.
They have also argued the town has to share a superintendent with six other districts, it doesn't have a say in the SAU budget and, at times, is held hostage by decisions made by school boards in other member towns.
An Olympic hero is home grown
[Deb Cram photo]
A lot of people on the Seacoast knew snowboarder Scotty Lago before this year, but it was after the winter Olympics in Vancouver in February that he became a household name by taking home a Bronze Medal.
"When they announced I won the Bronze Medal, it just kind of overtook me," said the 22-year-old from Seabrook. "I had all I could do to not just break out crying. It was such a powerful moment; it was beyond anything I could have imagined."
Lago trailed U.S. teammate and now two-time, Gold-Medal winner Shaun White, and silver medal winner Peetu Piiroinen of Finland.
Since his accomplishment, people who have crossed paths with Lago in so many places — at Seabrook Elementary School, Sacred Heart School in Hampton, the Little Warriors youth football program, Waterville Valley, and everyplace else where he has made a permanent impression — have celebrated the fact that one of their own is an Olympic medalist.
He was given a victory parade in Seabrook upon his return home.
Nancy Stiles defeats Fuller-Clark
[Deb Cram photo]
Republican Nancy Stiles did something in November that most thought was impossible in Senate District 24 — she came out on top of the race against long-time incumbent Sen. Martha Fuller of Portsmouth.
She won the Nov. 2 election by 534 votes — 11,590-11,056.
"When I first thought about doing this a couple of the sitting senators said 'Nancy, she's tough,'"‰" Stiles said. "I said, 'I know she's tough. She's been an icon on the Seacoast area for years.'"‰"
It didn't hurt that it turned out to be a Republican year wave, with members of the party regaining control of the House, Senate and Executive Council.
Stiles said she ran for one reason: To bring a more fiscally conservative voice to the Senate.
Stiles, 68, served six years as a District 15 state representative from Hampton, all six as a member of the Education Committee.
Prior to that she spent 30 years as the school nutrition director for the Hampton schools.
Hampton placed under sewer moratorium
The state Department of Environmental Services placed the town under a sewer moratorium in August but selectmen said it may have been a blessing in disguise because it brought to light many shortcomings at the plant.
The town was placed under moratorium because the wastewater treatment facility couldn't handle the amount of solids coming into the facility.
Officials said a big part of that was because a rotary press — which squeezes the solid waste coming into the plant and separates it from the water so it can be later dumped — was not working properly.
Over the last two months the press has been repaired and the town has spent more than $65,000 to remove excess sludge that accumulated in the tanks.
It later turned out the problem has more to do with lack of maintenance and investment over the years into the system.
An engineering report recommended more than $4 million of work to be done.
Noise ordinance controversy in North Hampton
The sometimes earsplitting noise produced by motorcycles has long been an issue for Seacoast residents. In May of this year, residents of North Hampton tried to take control of that situation.
A petition warrant article passed at Town Meeting by an almost 2-to-1 margin made it illegal to operate or even park a motorcycle in that town that did not have an EPA sticker on its exhaust system. That sticker certified that at the time of production, that system emitted no more than 80 decibels under normal operation.
However, after reviewing that ordinance with Police Chief Brian Page, and seeking legal opinions from several sources, including the Rockingham county attorney, the Select Board chose not to enforce it. The legal opinions were unanimous in ruling that a town could not usurp a law passed by the state Legislature that allowed motorcycles to emit 106 decibels.
Even the EPA's regional attorney confirmed that the federal law did not authorize communities to make regulations that undermined state law. In addition, Seacoast Motorcycles, a Harley-Davidson dealership located on Route 1 in North Hampton, asked the courts for a permanent injunction on enforcement of the new ordinance claiming it hurt the dealership's business.
A temporary injunction has been granted and the case is expected to be heard early next year. A group called New Hampshire CALM (Citizens Against Loud Motorcycles) formed late this year in New Castle and filed a brief in Rockingham County Superior Court in support of the new ordinance.
Taking a stand against schoolyard bullies
Bullying is nothing new but it came to the forefront in 2010, especially after a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl was bullied to the point where she decided to take her own life.
Locally, there were two cases at Winnacunnet High School this year where parents sought court restraining orders to protect their children from alleged bullies.
One student was allegedly being sent threatening messages online and by text. The other was allegedly being verbally and physically abused, including comments about her weight and sexual orientation.
The state Legislature in response to ongoing problems passed a new comprehensive bill that requires schools to have policies against bullying, harassment, intimidation and now cyber-bullying.
School officials in SAU 21 worked hard throughout the year to establish those policies and to combat the issue of bullying.
Charitable gambling comes to the Seacoast
Gambling in the name of charity expanded this year when two new such establishments were approved in Hampton Falls and Hampton.
A new Poker Room has opened at the former Dexter shoe store in Hampton Falls and year-round gambling has been approved to open at the site of the former Guido Murphy's night club at Hampton Beach.
They join the Seabrook Greyhound Park that has been offering charitable gambling for a number of years.
Holiday Parade returns after four years
[Ioanna Raptis photo]
The Hampton Holiday Parade returned this December after a four-year hiatus.
The Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce's board of directors canceled the event in 2007, stating that putting on the parade was too much of a liability
A number of Hampton volunteers were impassioned enough to bring back the holiday tradition.
And thanks to the newly formed Experience Hampton Committee -- and scores of local businesses, organizations, sponsors and volunteers -- Hampton children once again saw fire trucks, marching bands and, of course, Santa Claus heading down Lafayette Road.
People we remember
We lost a number of people this year who truly made an impact in the lives of so many people in Hampton.
Included among them was John Nickerson — a retired Hampton police officer and chairman of the town's cable committee — and Jane Kelly, a former longtime town clerk and state representative.
We also said goodbye to former Beach Precinct Commissioner Diana LaMontagne and to Jack Knox, lead singer of the Continentals and the head of entertainment for many years for the Hampton Beach Village Precinct.