The Top 10 local news stories for 2011, as voted by members of the Times staff.
1. Gloucester Seafood Display Auction: The linchpin of the commercial waterfront and a focal point of uprising excessive federal enforcement is targeted by a lawsuit filed by fishermen that alleges illegal skimming of revenues. Auction is also sold, opening door to a new auction and sea changes in Gloucester's seafood industry.
2. Confronting heroin: At least three overdose deaths in January and February bring increased community response, including an August vigil for victims over the years, and new rescue/resuscitation tools for police and ambulance crews.
3. Lahey-Northeast "partnership:" Northeast Health System approves what amounts to merger into Lahey Clinic to form Lahey Health — and spur new concerns on Cape Ann about the future of Addison Gilbert Hospital.
4. Pleasant Street Fire and aftermath: March 3 blaze destroys downtown building and spurs scathing after-action review over the Fire Department incident command actions at the scene.
5. Birdseye sale: New Balance athletic company founder and owner Jim Davis, a part-time resident of Annisquam, acquires the former Birdseye site in the Fort from developer Mac Bell for over $6 million, with new preliminary plans to build a hotel on the site.
6. Conomo Point properties: Tangled Essex case of residents paying both rent on town property and property taxes on their houses brings series of showdowns, with initial long-term leases literally expiring today.
7. Varian sale: The $4.9 billion sale of Varian Semiconductors, Gloucester's largest employer, to California-based Applied Materials Inc., announced in May and approved by stockholders in November. The deal makes local firm a division of larger high-tech company, but both vow to keep Varian in Gloucester, and company continues to add revenue and jobs.
8. Gloucester elections: Mayor Carolyn Kirk nets 72 percent of the vote in a convincing re-election win over challenger Ken Sarofeen for a third term, but Melissa Cox and Steve LeBlanc unseat incumbents to take ward council seats.
9. SeniorCare case: Judge rules against the legal challenges of SeniorCare Inc. to grant grandson of 83-year-old local man guardianship and access to medical records in case tied to the alleged mistreatment of the grandfather, Joseph Judd, under SeniorCare's stewardship. Police probe found no evidence of "criminal" wrongdoing, but cites health-care issues to be addressed, and state Sen. Bruce Tarr pushes for oversight changes.
10. (tie) Commerce says "We're sorry." The U.S. Department of Commerce and NOAA issue formal apology and pays back reparations to fishermen and waterfront businesses, including the Gloucester Seafood Auction, for excessive enforcement and fines as documented by a federal Inspector General, but none of the NOAA officials who carried out the abuses are reportedly fired or otherwise penalized.
10. (tie) The Greasy Pole's demise: High winds and tides in the early-morning hours of Sept. 30 topple a centerpiece of St. Peter's Fiesta — and sparks an immediate community response to raise the money to replace it.