2013 was a noteworthy year in Whitehall and the surrounding area. From drug-fueled shootings to notable retirements and the opening of a new police station, there was no shortage of stories.
Below is a recap of the 13 biggest stories of 2013.
Drug violence invades Whitehall
The community held its collective breath last spring amid reports that two homes in the Whitehall Mobile Home Park were riddled with gun shots.
Shortly after 4 a.m. on Friday, April 12, two men, brandishing rifles, opened fire on a home in the park. Ten rounds were fired into the home and a number of the bullets passed through an adjoining home. No one was hurt, but the shots narrowly missed sleeping residents in the second home.
Law enforcement launches a massive investigation and by the following day, police had arrested and charged two men in connection with the shooting.
Police determined the men had gone to the mobile home park seeking retribution for a robbery that had taken place on April 11 at the Hampton Motel.
According to police, seven people—three local women and four New York City men—went to the motel and robbed a group of rival drug dealers of electronics, drugs and money.
All three women and one of the New York City men have pleaded guilty to charges associated with the robbery and of the four, three have received prison sentences.
A second man was convicted on felony robbery charges last month and will be sentenced this week. Police are still searching for two men who are believed to have participated in the robbery.
The shooters both pleaded guilty to weapons charges in September and received prison sentences of 12 to 15 years.
A total of 10 people were charged in the two cases.
James Watson, longtime Superintendent of Whitehall Central School district, announced in May that he would retire after more than 27 years at the helm of the district.
Watson, who began his career in education as an elementary teacher at Hammond Central School in St. Lawrence County, was hired in 1986 to become Whitehall’s superintendent.
During his time as superintendent, Watson presided over a period of tremendous change both within the district and in the field of education.
The district’s population declined precipitously during Watson’s tenure, fueled in part by the decline of working class jobs in the community, and the district completed several major infrastructural improvements.
Last fall, the district announced that Elisabeth Legault, a former Hudson Falls resident and Rhode Island principal had been hired as its new superintendent. She assumed her duties last month.
Watson, who officially stepped down in October, but helped in an advisory role during the transition to Legault, was honored by co-workers, former students, board (of education) members and parents during his last meeting in October.
The saga of two Main Street properties
One of the most oft-repeated stories of 2013 was the village of Whitehall’s efforts to bring into compliance two dilapidated buildings on Main Street.
The story actually dates back to 2012, when Flint Stone and Charles Friedman, owners of the old “Chase” building and the Adams Family, owners of the “flatiron” building were ordered to bring their properties into compliance.
In the case of the “Chase” building, Stone and Friedman had begun demolishing the building, but the property was deemed unsafe.
After waiting months for the owners to continue work, the issue finally reached a head last March after a portion of Main Street was closed for several days after a part of the façade of the building fell into the roadway. A warrant for Stone’s arrest was issued and within days the facade of the building had been torn down and the roadway reopened.
The debris was finally removed in November.
On the other end of Main Street, officials struggled to even find the owner of the “flat iron” building, whose walls were bowing due to a damaged roof that was insufficient at keeping the weather at bay.
The property originally belonged to a Caryl Adams, who died in 2011, leaving the property in the care of his estate.
Officials sent family members repeated correspondence but they were always returned without having ever made it to their intended recipient.
The village was told to serve the entire Adams family, which it did earlier this fall, and officials reported just last month that after nearly two years, work on the building had commenced.
Police get new digs
Nearly a year after the town of Whitehall moved into the former Skenesborough Firehouse, the Whitehall Police Department followed suit in October, creating a true Whitehall Municipal Center.
The groundwork for the move was actually laid in 2012 when village officials announced their intention to move the police department.
Construction of the new station began last May and police officially made the move on Oct. 10.
The new facility has ten main rooms and is equipped with modern surveillance equipment, a copy machine and a data measuring device to measure blood alcohol content. A chain link enclosure was constructed outside to keep police cruisers secure.
The move completes the first half of what local officials ultimately envision as a multi-faceted municipal center housing town and village offices, police and the local courts.
The town and village have secured $60,000 in grants to facilitate the move of the courts and construction commenced late last year. Officials hope to have the new court facilities open by this spring. Space has also been reserved in the building for village offices, but a firm timetable has not been set.
The Amish move into Whitehall
After months of speculation, a contingent of Amish farmers who had been scouring Washington County in search of viable farm land, chose Whitehall and Hampton as its new home.
Members of the community, who hail from Fort Plain, purchased a number of local farms located on Hatch Hill Road, Upper Turnpike Road, County Route 11 and Abair Road.
The farmers were busy last fall establishing their own community, erecting barns and houses and cutting hay.
So far, the Amish have been wholeheartedly embraced by the community. Traffic signs alerting motorists of horse drawn carriages have been erected on local roads where the Amish live and Supervisor George Armstrong recently extolled the community’s industriousness. The farmers’ Saturday morning bake sales have also been a hit among the local populace.
The farmers plan to operate to a dairy farm this spring, will continue to sell baked goods and may even sell some furniture.
The town of Hampton and the Hampton Volunteer Fire Department squabble over contract parameters.
The two sides debated a contract for months, but eventually reached a settlement on a one-year contract near the end of last year.
Democratic challenger George Gang unseats longtime Supervisor Robert Banks.
Banks, who has served as Dresden’s supervisor for 20 years, lost his reelection bid in November. The results were very close and the winner wasn’t announced until a week after the general election when absentee ballots were counted.
One business closes and another opens
Last summer, Chris LaFlamme, owner of LaFlamme’s announced he was closing his Whitehall location and would be opening a new store in Rutland, Vt. The news came a few weeks after Warren Tire opened its 16th location in Whitehall.
Protecting the Ticonderoga
In January, Arthur Cohn, executive director of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and director of its Maritime Research Institute, said he would like to see the U.S.S Ticonderoga housed in a climate-controlled facility. Carol Greenough, director of the Skenesborough Museum, said such an idea would be cost prohibitive. It was later discovered that grant money may be available to facilitate the construction of such a facility, but town officials were weary of the costs of maintaining such a building.
The town, led by Supervisor George Armstrong, did spend time removing vegetation from the ship’s current enclosure and are weighing additional means of protecting the historic schooner.
Our Lady of Hope finds a new pastor
In February, Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church introduced Rendell Torres as its new pastor. Torres, a California native, was ordained as priest in 2010 and was assigned as an associate pastor at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Gloversville. His assignment in Whitehall is his first as a pastor.
Last month, news broke that Whitehall Police, New York State Troopers and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office were investigating a “sexting” scandal involving more than 50 students from Whitehall and beyond. Police said students shared sexually explicit photos of 20 underage girls via cell phones and computers. Charges are possible and school and law enforcement officials are working together to educate students on the dangers and repercussions—legal and otherwise—of sharing private photos via electronic means.
Beaver dam causes big problems in Huletts Landing
On July 11, after a month-and-a-half of rainy weather, a beaver dam southeast of the Eicherville Bridge on County Route 6A in Huletts Landing was breached, releasing a torrent of water that sent thousands of gallons of water into people’s homes and onto lawns.
The water carried mud, rocks and trees, leaving debris scattered about the dead-end road. Some of the debris even washed into Lake George.
No one was injured in the flood and there was no significant structural damage reported to any homes.
Both the road and the bridge were inspected by an engineer and were reopened to local traffic later that afternoon.
Whitehall’s hall of famer
John Millett, a former teacher at Whitehall and longtime head football coach, was inducted last summer into the Capital District Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.
Millett racked up 195 wins (third in Section II history) during nearly 40 years as coach of the Whitehall Railroaders football team and influenced the lives of countless youth from Whitehall and the surrounding area.