As 2012 winds down, we take a look back at the biggest stories of the year. Hooksett police Hooksett now has a new police chief chief, ending 13 years of complaints about former Police Chief Stephen Agrafiotis. He resigned Jan. 31, after being put on leave the previous September. An audit by Public Safety Strategies Group outlined many problems within the Hooksett Police Department, including a lack of trust in the ranks, low officer morale and a tenuous relationship with the community. The height of the controversy centered around officer Jason Defina, who was fired under the term “negligent retention”, reinstated a year later after a public hearing by the Hooksett Police Commission, and then who then left the department once Agrafiotis was suspended. Defina and another former officer, Gregory Martakos, still have lawsuits pending against Agrafiotis and the town. Thomas Burke was appointed interim police manager in October, replacing acting chief Capt. Jon Daigle, who expressed frustration with the commission over his performance as acting chief. Peter Bartlett, a former lieutenant with the Manchester Police Department will begin as Hooksett’s new police chief Jan. 7.
High schools High school issues dominated the headlines for much of 2012, first with the desire by some parents to send their children to high schools other than the city schools, which Candia and Hooksett were contracted with. The point of contention centered on proving a hardship, a recent change in policy for the school boards. That issue became even more serious when the new school year began and it was revealed that many of the classes at Central and West high schools contained more than 30 students. Months of protests and meetings went by, ultimately resulting in both Candia and Hooksett school boards sending letters to the city notifying officials that Manchester is considered to be in breach of its contract with the sending towns. The year ends with the city cutting off talks with Hooksett and Hooksett scrambling to consider its options if the city decides not to accept Hooksett high schoolers in the coming year.
Dale Hemeon One prominent Hooksett citizen fell from grace this year, as former Department of Public Works Director Dale Hemeon was arrested and was convicted on 11 felony counts of theft from the town. Hemeon was chosen as Hooksett’s Citizen of the Year in 2004, active in many town groups. Now he faces sentencing Jan. 3 and possibly restitution to the town for at least $30,000 in stolen equipment and other items. BYOD The 2011-12 school year was the test year for the Bring Your Own Device program in Hooksett, Candia and Auburn schools. In Hooksett, the test was more controversial, with some people debating the need for personal computers and cell phones in class as well as whether the policy was well thought-out. At the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, BYOD was approved by the school board, despite protest from some parents.
Trash change Hooksett began a new curbside recycling and trash pickup program this summer. The town provided two containers per household, one for trash and one for recyclables, on June 4, and began the program the next week. Transfer and Recycling Station manager Diane Boyce said the program has been a great success. “We are proud of the fact that the entire roll out was completed in a week,” said Boyce. “From June to Dec. 21, the town recycled 711.05 tons, compared to 271.92 tons that same period last year. The town has saved $44,185.16 so far during this fiscal year in disposal costs.”
Jodoin murder A decade-old murder was solved in Auburn after the brother of George Jodoin reivigorated the search for the killer on the 10th anniversary of his death. Robert Jodoin offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case. Arthur Collins, 43, of 113 Conant St., Manchester, confessed to the murder, saying he shot the pawn shop owner after becoming “really mad” when Jodoin made sexual advances toward him, according to court documents. He told investigators he was not thinking, had “blacked out,” pointed the gun at Jodoin and fired two shots. He maintained the gun had a hair trigger and just went off. Jodoin was 50 years old when shot in his bed in Auburn on Dec. 26, 2001.
Lalos jailed A popular Hooksett band teacher ended up in jail after pleading guilty Aug. 21 to felonious sexual assault and was sentenced to 7 1/2 to 16 years in prison, although he could be released in six years if he completes the sexual offender program. Andrew Lalos, 35, was accused of sexually assaulting a student when she was 16 and 17 years old. She had been a student of his in Cawley Middle School and later returned as an intern while in high school, which is when police said the sexual assaults occurred in 2005 on school grounds and at the residence of the married father of two.
Kindergarten The Candia School Board went ahead with full-day kindergarten in the 2012-13 school year, despite no public vote in the change. Principal Robert St. Cyr said the move to a full-day class will be immensely beneficial to the school’s kindergartners. He said one of the aspects he was most excited about was the ability to make each students learning experience more personal, which will help teachers get to the students better and improve their learning in the following grades.
End of the river What started as a collaborative effort among seven towns came to an end when the process of nominating the Suncook River to the state’s Rivers Management and Protection Program was terminated. Designation to the program would have provided the river with certain protections and enabled the creation of a local advisory committee, which would have developed a river corridor management plan and have the authority to comment on permit applications for the river corridor. The seven towns along the river – Allenstown, Barnstead, Chichester, Epsom, Gilmanton, Pembroke and Pittsfield – started the process in the fall, and Allenstown and Pembroke were the last to stay involved. All were greatly affected by flooding from the river from 2006 on.
Landfill fight The debate over the Candia’s old landfill and swap shop dragged on through 2012, with tempers flaring at several meetings. The town voted in 2011 to remove the swap shop and incinerator buildings, but concerns over hazardous waste at the site stopped their removal. The issue will be raised again in 2013.