EverythingWestport's 12 most notable new stories of 2010
Friday, December 31, 2010
Here's a look back at EverythingWestport's 12 most notable new stories of 2010 that start and end with the Blizzard of 2010. How is this possible you say? Read on and find out more about Westport's year including floods, fires, triumphs and defeats, and light times that defined the most memorable moments in the year of the Golden Tiger.
Lucky Leo got a lifeline - a heartwarming, new year’s tale of a dog’s rescue. Quick action by town resident Fern Lavoie and a daring rescue by Westport firefighters saved a Dartmouth dog from certain icy death. Fern Lavoie could have slept in Saturday morning, January 2nd or spent a little extra time over his morning coffee.
He could have spent an extra minute watching the early morning news.
But he didn’t.
What Fern Lavoie of 179 Roberts Street did do was walk outside on that 20 degree morning to get his Saturday morning paper at his usual time. That’s when he thought he heard a dog barking in distress out on Sawdy Pond.
Click here to relive the story with rescue photos.
Below: A tearful Katelyn Savoie, 18, reunited with Leo at Acoaxet Veterinary Clinic.
Westport Free Public Library had their Grand Opening Celebration Saturday, January 16 with a large crowd of local residents, dignitaries and officials in attendance. The library celebrated their recent expansion and building renovations on Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. The Trustees and building committee members were on hand for the official ribbon cutting.
The $1.4 million dollar project was made possible by donation from the Manton Foundation.
With a faltering economy that continued into 2010 and reduced state aid putting pressure on town budgets, the Library has had to cut hours and expenses, making the outcome of this improbably expansion even more exciting than originally planned.
Click here to read more and view photos.
Westport's recent winter wallop on December 28, 2010 of bone-chilling wind and driving wet snow is now officially the second Blizzard of 2010, as sustained winds of over 35 mph (recorded wind speeds reached 50 mph+) and enough hours of low visibility qualified this nor'easter as a blizzard. Westport was spared the one to two feet of snow received by communities just to the north and west, but slippery walks and icy roadways created treacherous conditions that slowed traffic in many areas. Motorists struggled with frozen car locks and windows, and the wind brought down a few heavy branches, not a lot, but some.
Read more with photos.
Left: wind driven drifting on Adamsville Road. 12/28/2010
The first Blizzard of 2010 was a winter storm and severe weather event that hit New England between February 9-11, 2010, dumping 12 to 40 inches of snow across a wide swath from Washington, DC to Boston.
The much-feared snowstorm failed to deliver the wallop to Westport predicted by forecasters. The over-hyped beast of a blizzard closed schools, town offices and many retailers, and merely delivered beauty in the eyes of school children and those adults who got the day off.
Below left: Winter shadows were long in the tooth over this undisturbed field of snow on Thursday, February 11, 2010. Below right: snow enshrouded cemetery off Sanford Road.
George and Doris get some windmills. March 10, 2010. Northeast Power of Westport erected three, 140-foot towers in about four hours at Noquochoke Orchards, making the 109-year-old orchard in town the first to receive the newest, most-advanced wind technology, produced right here in Westport.
The farm's “trifecta” investment that gambled on wind turbines helping solve their energy needs was sorely tested, however, when a dispute with NSTAR delayed the project for months and months, frustrating the farmers who were only trying to use green energy that the utility promoted.
“We pay $1700 per month in electricity costs for just our apple-processing shed,” bemoaned George Smith. "We need those turbines spinning."
No one said it was cheap to go green.
George Smith and Doris Mills are finding this out as they struggle with NStar to connect their new, state-of-the-art induction motor turbines to NSTAR’s power grid.
“Northeast Windpower was to provide some perfectly capable trip relays that have been in use with other comparable turbines across the country,” said Scott Fryer, Northeast Air installer.
But NStar told WJAR’s Heim (seen above, center with Scott Fryer) that the relay was neither UL certified nor utility grade. They want the farm to install NStar’s more expensive equipment that would add up to $5000 per turbine to make the connection.
Not true says Fryer. “Our trip relay is UL certified and only costs $200 per turbine to install.”
Click here to read and view photos about the delays in the "relays"!
Turbines take a turn for the better. September 17, 2010 - After six months of frustrating delays due to red tape and the monolithic indifference of NSTAR, the wind turbines of Noquochoke Orchards are finally spinning. “I’m happy,” said George Smith of the Westport Farm known more for its Cortland’s and Macs than renewable energy. “They need to save me some money!”
‘It’s not easy being green,’ Kermit the Frog used to sing. George Smith and Doris Mills now sing out of the same songbook.
Read more of this story's final chapter.
Westport under water! At the end of March, Westport weathered the most rainfall since the keeping of records began, and the worst flooding in almost 60 years. Adamsville Pond swamped the area as the dam was breached; Forge Pond dam threatened to collapse. Mouse Mill Road was washed out by raging torrent.
Amanda Assad (pictured above - April 1, 2010) on Borden Street sloshed through 18 inches of water on the first floor of their flooded home.
“I renovated this home three times over the years and spent thousands of dollars,” said owner Ron Assad. “We were just getting ready to redo the kitchen.”
The Assad’s home was condemned by the Westport fire department on Wednesday. “Now what do we do?” Assad said.
On-alert town fire, police and highway departments scrambled to shore up dams and reroute traffic on flooded roadways. Route 6 was under water. South Watuppa Pond was five feet above normal levels. The Westport Senior Center was on alert for possible housing of flood evacuees. The National Guard was called in.
Affected residents around North and South Watuppa were evacuated, and some have still not returned home.
“Whether we see something like this again in the next 50 years, we don’t know, but people are living through history,” said Walter Drag, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Taunton.
“We pumped out more than 50 homes as of late Wednesday afternoon, and had to condemn four homes on Drift Road, Tickle Road, and Borden Street.” - Deputy Fire Chief Allen Manley
It would be many months before FEMA, MEMA, town, city and state agencies had things sorted out and were abe to help affected residents.
Read more with amazing photos!
Local Westport safety officials praised during flood; National Guard slammed. Click here to read more and view photos.
Leo St. Onge gets a promotion! After 66 years, six wars and countless Memorial and Veterans Day parades, Westport’s most decorated war veteran is promoted on Memorial Day to Sergeant, United States Army, in a moving ceremony at Fall River’s Bank Street Armory. The 89-year-old Silver Star recipient had little to say, but spoke volumes through his tears as he accepted the promotion from Colonel Joe Lydon.
Sergeant St. Onge was the honorary Grand Marshall for this year’s Westport and Fall River Memorial Day parades.
Courage in the face of fire.
During World War II when his comrade got tangled up in a mass of communication cables while crossing a storm-swollen creek, and was drowning, St. Onge pulled him out, not because he was a hero, but because he needed the ammunition to support his company’s charge up the hill. “They needed my machine gun and all the men,” St. Onge said. “And a machine gun without bullets is no damn good.”
Six enemy pillboxes had St. Onge and his buddies in a cross fire. “I needed that man’s bandolier (ammunition belt),” St. Onge said.
Read more with photos.
Westport selectmen honor WWII veteran Leo St. Onge. Read more with photos.
Dramatic early-morning rescue saves woman from burning, smoke-filled house. Courageous firefighters carry the day. House is a total loss. An alert Fire Chief Brian Legendre spotted early morning smoke from an upstairs window at the Drift Road residence as he was passing by. His quick action saved a Westport woman from certain death.
Westport firefighter Dan Baldwin and Deputy Chief Allen Manley in a daring display of bravery entered a blazing, debris-filled house, and located and pulled 24-year-old Shannon Pearce from her first floor bedroom.
The bungalow-style home is 3/4 of a mile south of the Head of Westport.
Left: firefighters work to extinguish the blaze.
photo/Lucy Tabit for EverythingWestport.com
According to Barbara Steele, executive assistant to Fire Marshal Stephen Coan, the home was experiencing electrical problems prior to the fire.” She reported the fire was “most likely caused by an electrical problem, somewhere in the ceiling above the kitchen.”
Read more with photos on the daring rescue.
The end of an era. In 1927 a group of volunteer firefighters founded the Westport Firefighters’ Association, leased a bit of land on Main Road from Mr. Woods, a local farmer, and built a fire station at no cost to the Town of Westport and its taxpayers.
Those days of volunteerism and Yankee thrift are now but ancient history as Westport prepares to celebrate the opening of the largest public works project in its history - the new $6 million dollar South End Fire Station No. 1.
The 83-year-old wooden frame building located in Central Village that housed Westport’s first new fire engine has been retired, and the land returned to Mr. Woods’ son, Jim. The fire apparatus is now housed in the new, state-of-the-art, taxpayer-funded fire station that is the envy of all surrounding towns. My how times have changed.
The controversial project that took many years and many revisions to approve and build was ready for its coming out party. The grand opening and dedication was scheduled for Friday, July 30 at 11:00 a.m. Sandwiches and fire house chili for all!
But with the completion of the new fire house comes the end of an era when firemen’s associations built their own fire stations and equipped them with town-owned equipment. Closed is the Reed Road fire station, and closed is the Route 6 single-door fire station that experienced its own controversy so many years ago.
Click here to read more with lots of photos.
Click here to read about the grand opening with a complete archive of all construction photos from ground breaking to grand opening..
Goodbye Earl, we hardly knew ya! Westport woke up Saturday morning, September 4th to blue skies and sunshine as the Category 4 hurricane that promised a wallop passed by with hardly more than a whimper, skirting the shoreline and sparing the coastal villages any real damage. Minor surface water runoff from the sometimes heavy rains quickly dissipated, and the leaves stayed on the trees.
Above: The sailor’s denizen of disaster – Half Mile Rock battered by waves and storm surge. The Westport harbormaster closed the harbor entrance because of dangerous conditions.
Area farmers, commercial and recreational boaters, and seaside trailer owners poured days of preparations into protecting themselves against a possible category 4 hurricane hitting the coastal villages, but all for naught as downgraded tropical storm Earl brushed Westport aside and headed for better pickings on the Cape and Islands.
But the ocean put on a dramatic show with 11' seas and turbulent surf that had all the daredevil surfboarders out flashing their skills and taunting King Neptune.
Westport Rivers Vineyard was spared their second-only red Pinot Noir crop in 20 years ever since Hurricane Bob took out a prospective crop in 1991.
“We need an early start and a hot summer in order to approach a red wine year,” Rob Russell said. “This year was 1 vintage in 20 as far as we’re concerned.”
“The 1991 season started early with the vines displaying bud break two weeks before normal, just like this 2010 season. The 1991 season was hot and dry; the same is true for this year.” But late August 1991 also brought an unwelcome visitor - a hurricane named Bob. And with Hurricane Earl bearing down on the vineyard, the Russell family wanted to see the similarities between 1991 and 2010 end.
Read more with dramatic photos.
No guts, no Glory! Bishop Connolly High School’s Athletic Director Frank Sherman with dance partner Tiffany Rose brought down the house Saturday, October 14 with an incredibly gutsy rendition of early ‘60s rock and roll with just a tinge of swing.
Dancing to “What’s Your Name?” the duo really clicked with diminutive Tiffany swirling and flying around the rock solid, popular Fall River coach.
The pair took home the gold in the first of what many had hoped would become an annual Dancing with the Stars at White’s of Westport.
This charitable event was Westport's social event of the year.
View all the hi-res photos; read more with 70 pictures.
Westport voters have their say with big numbers on November 2nd. Westport’s Mike Rodrigues and Paul Schmid overwhelmed their lesser know opponents to become the first favorite-son legislators in Westport history to concurrently represent Westport at the state house.
State Senator-elect Rodrigues took Westport over Lakeville’s Derek Maksy by a vote of 4644 to 1745, a 72.68% margin in a record high town midterm turnout of 56.58%.
Newly elected State Representative Schmid fared just as well taking Westport over Fall River’s F. George Jacome with a 4650 to 1498 vote tally, a 75.59% margin.
Click here for more analysis and other race results with photos.
Left: good friends Steve and Twiggy Medeiros of Westport share a ‘salute’ with their favorite state senator-elect, Michael Rodrigues. Rodrigues has been a big supporter of Westport causes and charitable events, in particular the Annual Rock, Rhythm and Blues Festival. Right: state representative-elect Paul Schmid gets a congratulatory hug from Westport's Helga Nichols.
Westport's budget crisis required one regular and two special town meetings to sort out, with a proposition 2 1/2 override scheduled for a town-wide ballot vote March 1, 2011.
Moderator Steve Fors had his hands full Tuesday, December 7 trying to keep a marathon special town meeting in line and on target.
For the articles' authors, however, the holiday season came early as no article was defeated.
"It was very unusual for a special town meeting to run that long," said Town Clerk Marlene Samson. "I was very surprised how long it took on some of the articles, especially when those articles didn't face any opposition."
There’s just a hint of irony that Pearl Harbor Day was selected for the special town meeting as the town’s finances are under attack by painful reductions in state aid and local tax collections.
Dr. Carlos Colley, Superintendent of Westport Community Schools, gets a major victory. Westport's school system wins big with the passage of Article 15.
Read more about the special town meeting with photos.
Westport Annual Meeting. Meals tax in; rooms tax out! Westport voters overwhelmingly approved a proposed meals tax increase, and then rejected a 2% rooms tax boost as Westport’s town meeting got underway Tuesday night.
In a levy perceived by many town residents as unfairly targeting one local family, voters widely rejected the “Hampton Inn” tax.
In a surprisingly quiet evening voters approved the $29.8 million budget for fiscal 2011. But many fiscal hurdles remain.
Stormy weather is on the horizon as the contentious issues of overrides and underrides lie ahead Wednesday when town meeting picks up again at 7:00 p.m.
865 voters were in attendance, a number eerily predicted by Town Clerk Marlene Samson. 100 voters were seated in the cafeteria but went mostly unheard throughout the evening.
Council of Aging Board Chairwoman Heather Reed was stymied by parliamentary procedures when she tried to make a motion to increase Article 15 by $40,000.
On night two of the town meeting voters quickly passed over two controversial articles - a $2 million tax underride, and gutting the town’s participation in the Massachusetts Community Preservation program. 187 remaining Westport voters in attendance quickly dispatched most of the remaining articles in Wednesday’s final session of Town Meeting. What could have been a lackluster evening of housekeeping tedium was not without its moments.
Voters, persuaded by shy support from Selectmen and Finance Committee members, and strong backing by conservative gadflies almost put retired town employees over 65 on Medicare.
View 37 photos of Town Meeting. | Hi-resolution | Dial-up |
Show me the money! A sea of energized voters stormed the Westport High School on March 19th for a special town meeting to deal with overrides, and overwhelming approved transferring $141,103 from the town’s stabilization fund to cover the schools’ Fiscal Year 2010 deficit.
Representing less than a percent of the schools’ overall budget, this single issue galvanized community activists and students alike to get out Westport voters in numbers not seen at town meeting since 1992.
Town Clerk Marlene Sampson swore in three assistant moderators to handle the overflow of the 1462 registered voters in attendance; they were directed to the high school’s cafeteria, media room and gymnasium. The auditorium’s seating capacity of 840 was maxed by 7:00 p.m.
A lark that would be a landmark. One of our mystery photos, correctly guessed on November 5th, has like so many other things in life, a never ending story of intrigue and local lore. So what's up with the "fork in the road?"
Sending directions to visiting friends and relatives, Tom and Kate Schmitt often include the phrase: “when you come to the fork in the road,” as a part of instructions about which way to turn when one comes to the intersection of Old Harbor and River Roads. Occasionally Tom and Kate would wonder aloud about that term’s literal interpretation, and from time to time imagined how drivers might react if, upon reaching the intersection, they were to encounter a large fork. Read more.
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