Police union head suspended
Police officer Rick Welch, president of the patrolman’s union, was suspended for 15 days without pay this month for mishandling a call from an elderly woman who was concerned about her son — a 57-year-old Silsby Farm beekeeper later found dead from bee stings in June.
Police Chief Alan DeNaro suspended Welch for five days without pay and recommended that Fiorentini suspend the officer without pay for another 175 days. The mayor said he relied on Welch’s clean record in rejecting DeNaro’s recommendation to suspend the officer for six months. The case focuses on Welch’s decision not to send a patrol car to check on beekeeper Alan Schwartz, after his mother called police at 2 a.m. on to report that her son did not come home that night and was not answering his cell phone. Schwartz was found dead the next morning from an allergic reaction to bee venom. Welch believes his punishment is excessive and is payback for his union activities and has appealed the mayor’s decision to the state Civil Service Commission.
Hillie sports teams on a roll
The high school football team made it into post season play for the first time in 12 years, capping off their second straight winning season with a thrilling Thanksgiving Day win at home against rival Lowell. Defense was the strength of the team this year, having surrendered an average of just over 16 points per game.
The girls soccer team defeated Andover 3-1, marking the first win over the Warriors in the history of the program. Five high school programs competed in the post season, including the girls volleyball team, which completed one of the best seasons in program history and 18-4 record. The School Department found more money to put into sports and as parents and boosters raised money, all of which reduced student athlete fees increasing participation.
Year of the bridge
Two heavily traveled bridges and one less traveled span re-opened to the relief of motorists who had to endure detours and delays. The new Congressman William H. Bates Bridge opened Sept. 20 .The 775-foot span cost $49.7 million and dwarfs the old Bates Bridge which it replaced.
The state reopened the Rocks Village Bridge which had been closed to traffic since June 18, 2012, to allow work crews to do $14.1 million in renovations. The year of the bridge culminated at the end of October with the reopening of the Ferry Road Bridge in Bradford. A major renovation of the structure, which spans the MBTA train tracks just west of Route 125 in the Ward Hill area, began in the fall of 2011.
Native son wins Nobel Prize
Haverhill native James Rothman was named co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for helping define how cells transport major molecules in a cargo system that delivers them to the right place at the right time in cells. The work group provides clues about new ways to combat diseases such as diabetes and helps the fight against cancer.
Rothman was born in Haverhill in 1950, the son of Dr. Martin Rothman, a well-known local pediatrician, and Gloria Rothman. He is currently Professor and Chairman in the Department of Cell Biology at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.
Woman kills live-in boyfriend
After police went to an apartment on a report of a disturbance, they encountered a woman who appeared heavily intoxicated and who’d taken pills so they had her transported to the hospital. Several hours later she returned to her apartment, where police said she stabbed her boyfriend to death. This brought into question how police handle these types of complaints and how the hospital deals with this situations. On May 6 at about 5 p.m., police were called to an apartment at 1 Water St. After talking to Susan Lovejoy, 64, and her live-in boyfriend Kevin Paul, 51, officers determined they had been arguing. Police had her taken by ambulance to Merrimack Valley Hospital for observation. Several hours later, Lovejoy was released and returned to her Water Street apartment. At 11:35 p.m., officers returned to the apartment for a reported suicide. Officers found Paul dead from a stab wound and Lovejoy kneeling next to him. Lovejoy told police that her boyfriend had stabbed himself .Police charged her with murder. In September a grand jury indicted Lovejoy on the charge of murder.
Wedding dress debacle
After the owner of a bridal consignment shop left town and closed her doors leaving thousands of dollars in bridal gowns still locked inside, her landlord decided to take action. He was granted an eviction along with possession of the store’s contents. But instead of keeping it and maybe trying to sell it all, he contacted customers who’d left dresses and other bridal items there on consignment. “I didn’t feel like I had the right to them,” said Jim Ryan, who owns the building in Lafayette Square that housed Bride To Bride Boutique. The shop owner had left her customers in the lurch when she departed for Florida without warning in January. In February, police in Haverhill said they’d been contacted by several people who complained they placed their wedding dresses on consignment but were unable to contact the shop owner. Ryan said he was able to return about 90 percent of the shop’s inventory.
Political change and history making
After 10 years on the City Council, Michael Hart decided to take a break, but said he may return to politics in the future. The absence of Hart from the ballot meant that at least one challenger was certain to win a seat. That newcomer happened to be downtown businesswoman Melinda Barrett. She was the only one of seven challengers to win a two-year seat on the council in the Nov. 5 city elections. Barrett finished a strong third in the council race to top vote-getter John Michitson and current council President Robert Scatamacchia. The council race was also noteworthy in that every councilor who sought re-election won his or her seat back.
Mayor James Fiorentini, 64, was re-elected to a record sixth consecutive term over challenger Tyler Kimball, 50, a city firefighter who mounted a late-entry, write-in/sticker campaign. In the race for School Committee, incumbent Raymond Sierpina lost his re-election bid to Maura Ryan-Ciardiello, who finished second to longtime committee member Joseph Bevilacqua, who topped that ticket. Ryan-Ciardiello will serve on the School Committee with her brother-in-law Shaun Toohey, while her father, former mayor William Ryan, retained his seat on the City Council.
Methadone and marijuana
The year closed with the city facing a proposal to open a methadone clinic within its borders. Spectrum Health Systems received a building permit from the city in August to begin renovating a building near the Plaistow, N.H. line that was formerly The Children’s Learning Center daycare. Although the city has rejected methadone clinics at least twice in the past, Spectrum’s attorney said the non-profit health care provider plans to open a clinic at 100 Plaistow Road and there is nothing the city can do to stop it. The lawyer, Paul Holtzman, said Spectrum does not have to follow the city’s zoning regulations or apply for a special permit from the City Council for the clinic because Spectrum is an educational corporation. Mayor Fiorentini said he opposes the plan and the city has hired outside counsel to review the matter.
Another non-profit, Healthy Pharms, Inc., is eyeing the city for a facility that would grow, process and sell medical marijuana. The company, headed by Nathaniel Averil, is seeking state approval to open a dispensary. The proposal is one of a seven in Essex County in the running for a license from the state. Last month, City Council rejected a proposal from Mayor Fiorentini to establish a special zone for marijuana facilities in the Hale Street industrial area. Local officials also considered allowing a marijuana facilities in the Ward Hill Business Park in the city’s Bradford section, but that area was eliminated due to neighborhood opposition.
There was a little bit of Hollywood in Haverhill as Denzel Washington came to film scenes for Columbia Picture’s “The Equalizer” at the former Lowe’s building. Francis McDormand, perhaps best known for her Academy Award-winning performance as Marge Gunderson in the 1996 movie “Fargo,” was at the Merrivista elderly housing complex on Water Street in September to film scenes for HBO’s upcoming miniseries “Olive Kitteridge.” About two dozen residents of the Merrivista complex were used as extras during filming of the HBO miniseries.
— Compiled by Shawn Regan