A Look Back Before Celebrating New Year

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By Susan Morse and Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, December 31, 2004

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Unionand

Seacoast Online.]

The year 2004 comes to an end tonight and, as is customary, we take a look back at 10 significant events or news stories that took place in our communities in the past 12 months.

1. Seabrook recall lawsuit

The top story of 2004 was the lawsuit to prevent recall elections in Seabrook, because the result will set a precedent for every other town in the state that allows the recall of town officials.

This summer, the majority of Seabrook’s three-member Board of Selectmen brought a lawsuit to stop recall elections against two of its members from going forward.

More than 1,500 residents had signed the two recall petitions, which are allowed under Seabrook’s Town Charter.

Town counsel claimed the recall provision was illegal, since New Hampshire is not a home-rule state.

The selectmen’s case seemed all but won until Town Clerk Bonnie Fowler, named as a "necessary party" in the lawsuit, stepped in and hired an attorney who argued the opposite side.

Selectmen are currently questioning a $13,000 attorney bill Fowler sent to the town.

The case is pending in Rockingham Superior Court. A decision may or may not be handed down in time for an actual recall election to be held.

2. Helen Garland

The death of Alice Keyho shocked the Hampton community in 2004, especially after police charged her own sister, Helen Garland, 75, in connection with her murder.

Garland admitted to beating her sister, kicking her and dragging her across the floor in their 10 Philbrook Terrace home on March 24, according to police.

Garland told police she "didn’t mean to kill her sister," according to affidavits unsealed in Hampton District Court.

"I don’t hit her often," the affidavit quotes Garland as saying. "She’d grab hold of my hand so I couldn’t hit her again. I would never hit her in the head, it was around the chin ... I might have kicked her, but lots of times I did that to her."

An autopsy report showed that Keyho suffered bruises on her face and chest, two black eyes, bleeding between her brain and skull and 22 broken ribs.

Garland was originally indicted on six charges of first degree assault.

In August, a Rockingham County grand jury added another indictment against Garland. This time it was for murder.

In an interview with The Hampton Union in August, Garland said she never laid a finger on her sister. Her alleged confession was made out of frustration after police officers wouldn’t take no for an answer, she said.

Garland, who is out of jail on a $10,000 bail, is scheduled to go to trial in April. If convicted of murder, Garland could be put behind bars for the rest of her life.

"They don’t know what really happened," she said. "I know the truth. I loved my sister and my sister loved me."

3. Wakeda Campground

A freak storm left a trail of destruction through the Wakeda Campground in Hampton Falls this August.

At least 10 people were injured and 27 seasonal trailers destroyed when, on Friday night, Aug. 20, a fierce, tunnel-like wind storm, called a "bow echo" slammed through the woods, toppling trees onto the mobile homes.

Deputy Fire Chief Daniel Lamontagne said four people, including a 13-year-old boy, were trapped underneath the trees.

Pam Adamski of Ludlow, Mass., who has been returning each season for 36 years, described an eerie change in pressure in her trailer when the storm hit. She was pushed down, as though she was in a can of vacuum-sealed peanuts that had just been opened.

"It was a vacuum that just knocked you to the ground," she said. "We just grabbed the kids and ran across the street."

The storm brought comparisons to the fatal microburst that swept through Stratham Hill Park in 1991.

There were no fatalities this August.

Residents were already rebuilding by the weekend. The community of more than 400 summer-long residents continues, under family ownership.

4. Three bank robberies

A man walks into a bank, hands a teller a note and leaves with an undetermined amount of cash.

While it doesn’t usually happen a lot, it did in Hampton in 2004.

Three banks in town were robbed this year.

The Fleet Bank on Lafayette Road was robbed in July while Citizens Bank on Winnacunnet Road was robbed in September.

The most recent robbery occurred in November at the Bank of New Hampshire on High Street.

The only banks not robbed in town in 2004 were Community Bank & Trust and Ocean National Bank.

Police said they have caught the man who committed the first two bank robberies, but the culprit in the most recent robbery is still at large. Federal investigators say a bank robbery that occurred in Exeter in November is linked to the most recent robbery in Hampton.

Hampton Police Chief Bill Wrenn said Daniel Lopez robbed the Fleet Bank in July and Citizens Bank in September.

In both robberies, the suspect indicated he had a handgun and fled with an undetermined amount of money.

Lopez was arrested by Manchester police in September and charged with robbing the Ocean National Bank in Manchester.

5. Drugs in the Seacoast

Then Seabrook Deputy Chief David Currier first made the issue public: Heroin is devastating families, he told the Board of Selectmen.

Shortly afterwards, incoming Chief Bill Baker made his three-pronged approach of drug education, prevention and enforcement a priority for his new administration, holding a February drug forum and a series of high-profile arrests.

Even the state, through State Police Sgt. Ellen Arcieri of the Narcotics Investigation Unit called the heroin problem in Seabrook, "epidemic."

The problem obviously did not stop at Seabrook’s border, as dealers on a daily basis went to larger cities in Massachusetts to buy drugs and bring them back to the Seacoast to sell to support their own habit.

Baker left the department at the end of May; the problem fell back to Currier who became chief. Currier carried on Baker’s idea of a community drug coalition; sent an officer to the Seacoast Drug Task Force; and has money in his 2005 budget to devote an officer to the drug problem.

Winnacunnet High School joined the education battle this fall, with its own school-district-wide coalition called the Seacoast Safety Net, planning a drug forum for Jan. 10.

6. Seafood Festival fee

2004 marked the first year in the history of the Seafood Festival that the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce decided to charge a $4 admission fee.

While in the days leading up to the festival, several residents in town complained about the admission fee, the chamber said they received only a few complaints. The fee was necessary, they said, due to insurance and the cost of infrastructure upgrades made at the beach in 2003.

One of the biggest critics of the admission fee was the former chairman of the Seafood Festival, Jerry Dignam, who was let go by the chamber in 2003.

The festival, held the weekend after Labor Day, attracts 100,000 people each year, and is considered among the top 10 tourist bus destinations in the country.

While organizers said the three-day festival was a success, they have yet to disclose how much money they took in.

7. Bridge worker killed

Al Napolitano loved the ocean and relished working on the Hampton River Bridge.

He wasn’t supposed to work that day in May, but he was called into work to lift the gates to let a fishing boat pass.

That day turned out to be his last.

Napolitano, who was in the process of reopening the gate to traffic after a fishing boat passed through, was struck and killed when a driver allegedly went around a wooden gate and into a second, steel, manually operated gate.

The driver of the car was Walter Marston, 75, of Exeter.

While police said they were considering pressing charges against Marston for negligent homicide, nothing has been filed.

Drugs and alcohol were not factors, they said, though dementia may have been.

Family and friends said Napolitano will be remembered as a dedicated father and grandfather.

Napolitano worked at the bridge for the last 10 years.

"It was one of the loves of his life," said Napolitano’s wife, Susan.

8. Plans for the Beach future

While the redevelopment of Hampton Beach still has a way to go, town officials made progress in 2004.

In the fall, selectmen negotiated a secret deal with the Kurt Sanborn, the same developer behind the Fisher Cat Stadium in Manchester.

Several members of the Hampton Beach Commission said they were upset with selectmen for negotiating the deal to pursue a development at Hampton Beach without their input.

They said Sanborn should have come to them before going to the town, since the Hampton Beach Commission is charged with turning the beach into a year-round destination and making it conform to the Hampton Beach Master Plan.

It was also the year the town finally broke ground on the $12 million sewer upgrade and infrastructure project at Hampton Beach.

Work on the project officially began in December.

The project, which was approved in 2003, involves replacing the 70-year-old sewer pipes with new ones to be installed in roadways at Hampton Beach.

The current sewer system is showing signs of its age and lacks the necessary capacity to handle redevelopment projects proposed by the Hampton Beach Master Plan, officials said.

The project encompasses a majority of the main beach area, including Ashworth Avenue and all the side streets east of Brown Avenue up to the state park, including the Island section.

The project also includes the King’s Highway sewer replacement and the Church Street to Boar’s Head sewer upgrade.

Several residents have expressed concern over the project because they are afraid they will lose their parking, since the town is planning to reclaim its land, and the costs associated with hooking up to the new sewer.

9. $25 million school project

In March, residents in four communities came together to vote in favor of a $25 million project to transform Winnacunnet High School into a bigger and more modern space.

School officials, students and members of the community gathered outside the school in September for the official groundbreaking ceremony.

"I want to say a huge thank you to the entire Winnacunnet High School community," said School Board member Chris Singleton. "This was an unbelievable team effort."

The $25.6 million project, which was defeated twice before, passed overwhelmingly in all four communities.

Because the issue was a bond question, it needed 60 percent approval to pass. The project came in at 68 percent approval.

School officials gave a special thanks to the Winnacunnet Outreach Committee, which worked to get the project passed in all four communities.

The project calls for the building of a two-story, 23-classroom academic building to replace the 18 modular classrooms that now surround the school. The modular classrooms are meant to accommodate the ever-increasing student enrollment that the 1958 building cannot house.

The academic building will include 12 science classrooms to replace the current laboratories that administrators say are severely outdated.

Also included in the plan is a new physical fitness building with a 3,000-seat gym, a 500-capacity cafeteria and further renovations to the current building.

10. Red Sox win

It didn’t take place in the Seacoast area, but it was our favorite story of the year: the Red Sox beat the Yankees and went on to win the World Series.

The story affected everyone, made anything seem possible and brought people together in a way we haven’t seen since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Except this was no tragedy. This was glorious celebration, at least in New England. What they were doing in New York we could only imagine, and we imagined a lot. The glee at seeing outfielder Manny Ramirez’s sign on the Boston parade route: "Jeter is golfing today - this is better."

Nothing felt better than beating the pin stripes against all odds, of coming back after being one game away from elimination.

Even non-baseball fans had to have been impressed. They certainly could not have avoided the news that week, nor the smiles worn by those also proudly wearing their Boston caps.

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