Beach Revitalization Top Story of 2009
School Board Decisions,
Theater Closing also make 'Top 10'
By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, January 1, 2010
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- In 2009, town officials and residents faced many of the same problems other coastal towns in New Hampshire had to deal with.
Just as in most towns on the Seacoast, Hampton faced the issue of protecting its residents against the H1N1 pandemic; as well as mosquito-bourne illnesses, such as Eastern equine encephalitis and the West Nile virus. They also had to find a way to deal with the immediate costs of the aftermath of the December 2008 ice storm and cuts made by the state to town revenues.
Retirement and insurance benefit costs also increased, putting an additional strain on the already tight municipal and school budgets that town officials had prepared and voters had passed.
There was a lot of bad news in 2009, but Hampton's top story of the year was a positive one. The project to revitalize and change the face of Hampton Beach received funding and began this year.
Hampton Beach revitalization project gets go-ahead
The fact that the state Legislature approved the $14.5 million project in the midst of an economic downturn easily made it one Hampton's top 10 stories of the year.
Originally not included in the state's capital budget, the Hampton Area Beach Commission, along with Hampton's legislative delegation worked tirelessly behind the scenes to get the project approved.
"I truly think this was a great community win for all of us," said John Nyhan, chairman of the Hampton Area Beach Commission. "We knew this was going to be an uphill fight and, as a community, we rallied. That was one of the main reasons why this project got approved."
State Rep. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, said the one argument that really sold the project was that it was going to generate income for the state. Economist Lawrence Goss, brought in by the beach commission to promote the project's advantages, predicted the state would make an additional $2.6 million per year in taxes and fees once the project was completed.
Construction of the $14.5 million project will start in the spring with the construction of two new bathroom facilities — one at the Marine Memorial and another near Haverhill Street.
The Seashell Stage complex will include new bath houses, a first-aid station, a lifeguard station, maintenance garage and the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce visitors' center.
The main attraction will be the brand-new Seashell Stage, which would have 800 seats and replace the one that was built in 1962.
After 29 years of bringing Hollywood to local residents, Hampton Cinema Six closed its doors for good in 2009. The six-screen theater on Lafayette Road was demolished in March to make way for a CVS Pharmacy and retail space.
Hundreds of patrons paid homage to the local landmark on Route 1, which on its last day offered tickets at the same price patrons paid when the theater opened in 1980.
Owner John Tinios, who also operates the Galley Hatch restaurant, said he was forced to close the theater because it was no longer economically feasible to continue to run it.
"It was really a tough decision for my family because we enjoy the movie theater, and it's a great part of the community," he said.
Hampton School Board under fire
[Scott Yates File Photo]
The Hampton School Board came under fire after members voted behind closed doors back in April to eliminate several teaching positions, including a "Teacher of the Year" candidate, as part of a plan to restructure Hampton Academy.
At the time, board members explained that the changes were the result of the need to eliminate excessive planning periods that took teachers out of the classroom during the school day.
However, the board backed down after parents, teachers and students rallied against the proposed cutbacks.
Outraged parents organized protests, and bombarded board members with phone calls and e-mails demanding that they reconsider the choices they made in what has come to be known around town as the "Good Friday Massacre."
The board voted to reconsider the cutbacks and the restructuring plan after a special meeting on April 23, which attracted over 200 teachers and parents.
A rally prior to the meeting was held outside the school where parents held signs the proclaimed: "Our Children are not guinea pigs" and "Leave Our School Alone."
As the year ends, the School Board is preparing its 2010-11 budget that also has some controversial personnel changes in it.
A homicide investigation
The death of Joshua Egbert at the hands of his a "friend" in a drunken dispute over a woman shocked the community in 2009. It was first homicide investigation conducted by Hampton police since the brutal beating of Alice Keyho at the hands of her sister Helen Garland back in 2004.
David Herrick, 38, with a last known address in North Hampton, allegedly beat his friend "unconscious" on Nov. 21.
Egbert died two days later from severe head trauma at Bringham & Women's Hospital in Boston.
Herrick is currently charged with first-degree assault, but those charges could be upgraded by the state Attorney General's Office.
While Herrick claimed his actions were in self-defense, authorities said he had made statements admitting to repeatedly punching Egbert until he was unconscious and not breathing.
"I punched him as hard as I could with everything I had, and I didn't stop until he was not moving anymore," Herrick allegedly told police, according to court documents.
Police also noted in the report that Herrick did not have any apparent injuries other than a swollen right hand and a "cut on the knuckles with fresh and dried blood apparent."
No court date has been set as an indictment against Herrick has not yet been handed down by the Rockingham County grand jury.
Comings and goings
The year kicked off with a new face added to the Hampton Board of Selectmen: Jerry Znoj. The political newcomer ran as a fiscal conservative and took over Jim Workman's seat on the board. Workman had decided against running for another term.
Hampton Academy Principal Christopher Sousa handed in his letter of resignation in April in the midst of the controversy regrading the now-defunct proposal to restructure Hampton Academy. It was later discovered the reason why he left was because the board had already appointed Marston Principal Dave O'Connor as Academy principal.
SAU 21 Superintendent James Gaylord announced in May that he intended to retire at the end of the 2009-10 school year. The SAU 21 Joint School Board has narrowed the search for a replacement down to two individuals and expects to name Gaylord's successor sometime in January.
Timothy Lannan was appointed the new principal of Centre School in July, replacing Nancy Andrews, who retired after serving the district for 24 years.
Winnacunnet Principal Randy Zito announced in November that he will be retiring at the end of the 2009-10 school year. His successor will be current Vice Principal Bill McGowan.
Hampton goes 'green'
The town went a lot greener in 2009 with the decision by selectmen to phase in mandatory recycling over a three-month period. The project started with glass bottles in October, then aluminium/tin cans in November and, finally, all cardboard and paper in December.
The board's decision to take the choice out of the process came on the heels of an Aug. 10 public hearing at which numerous business owners in town spoke against ending commercial trash pickup paid for by the town. Rather than end commercial trash pickup, selectmen decided to give mandatory recycling a try in order to reduce the amount of tonnage brought to the transfer station.
Looking toward the future, Hampton has joined the Concord Regional Solid Waste Cooperative, which, when its up-country facility is finished, will allow town residents to put all their recyclables into on container for pick-up — something called "single-stream" recycling.
Hampton comes together to support Myla Gott
The year started off tragically as 18-year-old Winnacunnet High School student Myla Gott was seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident on Interstate 95 in Portsmouth. The accident, which involved a spin-out on a patch of ice, left Gott in a coma.
However, the tragedy brought the Hampton community together. A variety of fund-raisers were held throughout the year, including a benefit walk dubbed "Miles 4 Myla" that drew a huge crowd.
The money raised went to the Gott family to offset some of the medical costs of Myla's rehabilitation.
As the year ends, Myla's dad, Bill, said his daughter has made progress by "leaps and bounds" since the Jan. 28 crash. She is out of her coma and responding to family and friends.
Myla is currently at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield.
OdysseyNH shuts it's doors
After nearly 40 years of helping young people overcome substance abuse problems in New Hampshire, OdysseyNH closed its doors for good in 2009.
The nonprofit organization founded in Hampton, officially closed on Aug. 14. Its board of directors cited the economic downturn and a "shift in New Hampshire state funding priorities" as the main reasons for the closure.
The board indicated the state has moved away from funding residential care facilities, opting to try to integrate the youngsters into existing community health facilities, such as Seacoast Mental Health in Portsmouth.
OdysseyNH had three locations in Hampton; the Adolescent Treatment Center on Winnacunnet Road, the OdysseyNH Academy on High Street and the Blue Heron Inn on Landing Road. As of the end of the year, all three facilities remain empty as the owners seek other tenants.
Winnacunnet's Nash named 'Teacher of the Year'
Winnacunnet High School teacher Eric Nash was named 2010 Teacher of The Year in New Hampshire in September by the state Department of Education.
The 25-year veteran science teacher was selected among 35 educators from around the state who were nominated for the top award.
District clerk get $20K bill in neighbor dispute
Who knew that using a slingshot to throw an egg at a neighbor's home and allegedly dumping weed killer on a lawn could cost $20,000?
Hampton School District Clerk Tammy Deland found that out the hard way back in March after being ordered to pay $20,219 in restitution as part of a no-contest plea she entered in Hampton District Court to two counts of criminal mischief.
Hampton police arrested Deland on Feb. 6, and at the time described the case as a "neighbor dispute that has been elevated to the next level."
Deland was accused by her neighbor of putting the chemical compound Round-Up on her lawn on July 10, 2008, and throwing an egg at her home on Jan. 8, 2009.
Deland is currently fighting the restitution order, which includes $13,500 for the removal of the allegedly contaminated soil, that was set by the state Department of Corrections' Division of Field Services.