Peabody: Looking Back at 2013

Here's a look back at the year that was.

At left: Peabody State Rep. Leah Cole. At right: a conceptual design for the new Higgins Middle School.
At left: Peabody State Rep. Leah Cole. At right: a conceptual design for the new Higgins Middle School.
As 2013 draws to a close, here's a look back at some of the biggest stories and highlights from this past year in Peabody.

1. One story that had everyone in the Tanner City talking this spring was the surprise upset by Republican Leah Cole in the special election to succeed late State Rep. Joyce Spiliotis. Cole, in her first run ever for public office, edged out veteran city politicians Beverley Griffin Dunne and Dave Gravel in a low turnout election in April. Dunne, a Democrat and longtime friend of Spiliotis, finished a close second (73 votes behind Cole) and while disappointed at the result, quickly vowed to run again in 2014.

2. It was also another municipal election year, which saw the retirement of three veteran councilors -- Dave Gamache, Jim Liacos and Rico Mello -- and the ouster of four-term councilor Arthur Athas in Ward 2. The four new councilors elected in November were Tom Walsh, Jim Moutsoulas, Peter McGinn and Joel Saslaw.

3. The city made substantial progress toward building a new middle school this year, including establishing what exactly the new school will cost ($92.6 million), securing a funding commitment from the state and the City Council and fleshing out more specific design plans and scheduling in order to begin construction next summer.

4. The long-awaited and much-debated traffic reconfiguration of Main Street was finally completed this summer and met, naturally, with enthusiasm on hand and harsh criticism on the other hand.

5. Mayor Ted Bettencourt was successful in getting approvals at the city and state levels to part ways with Civil Service as he proceeds to select a new police chief to succeed longtime chief Robert Champagne. Civil Service is still in place though for rank and file members of the force.

6. There was a glimpse of major changes for Peabody Square this summer at the news of a cornerstone building being purchased for development, and then that was followed up with definite plans for a new boutique hotel and four-star restaurant.

7. Federal authorities finally took a Peabody man into custody this summer for the explosion at a makeshift meth lab that rocked the Holiday Inn the year before. Joseph Penachio is facing federal charges and hefty fines.

8. The Boston Strangler's remains were dug up for a second time in 12 years at Puritan Lawn Memorial Park in July as authorities pursued a new lead in the decades-old case.

9. The City Council did away with the winter-long parking ban last year, but it wasn't until 2013 that the city got its first regular taste of blue lights and emergency parking bans.

10. An 87-year-old man was struck and killed by a car outside St. Adelaide's Church in January, prompting a thorough review of the traffic situation on that stretch of Lowell Street and culminating this fall with the city spending $88,500 to install a push-button pedestrian traffic light.

11. The City Council enacted an outright ban on medical marijuana in Peabody in January at the behest of Mayor Ted Bettencourt as state regulations on the new dispensaries were under development. City officials said they would just modify the ban later if need be.

12. A few other highlights for the year: the West Memorial Elementary School received a pretty rare honor from the Department of Defense -- the Seven Seals Award. The city held its first St. Patrick's Day Roast at City Hall. Both the attendance and the good-natured wisecracks were plentiful. And the legal battle continued to rage over that pesky 92-foot billboard on Lowell Street.

Were there other big stories this year in Peabody that got your attention? Let us know in the comments section below.


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