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Keene State business hub to proceed without state funding

Keene State College is moving forward with plans to create a “hub” for collaboration with area businesses after state funding for the project fell through.

Funds for the space on campus — which would be called the Monadnock Business Partnership Hub — were originally supposed to come from a one-time appropriation under Gov. Chris Sununu’s proposed “Next Generation Workforce Initiative.

But that allocation did not survive state budget negotiations, and Keene State is now exploring partnerships, grants, and donation and loan programs to support the project without state dollars, according to President Melinda Treadwell.

The hub would initially be focused on manufacturing and product design, Treadwell said, with a “makerspace” — a space outfitted with tools and equipment designed to encourage invention, innovation and collaboration — and technology-enhanced classrooms. It would also house the college’s precision manufacturing in optics program, which was developed in partnership with manufacturers such as BAE Systems and Moore Nanotechnology Systems.

Companies and students could work together in a range of ways through the hub, Treadwell said, offering the example of students helping to create prototypes for product design concepts.

Treadwell said Monday that the college has been working with city officials and Monadnock Economic Development Corp. to discuss alternative ways to fund the hub.

“I was thrilled to hear that the city felt that this business hub was really an important part of the economic engine of the future,” she said.

According to John G. “Jack” Dugan, president of the Keene-based economic development corporation, the hub could be funded through a combination of state and federal tax credits and grants, much like the expansion of the Keene Public Library and the construction several years ago of the new county courthouse.

Based on the college’s vision, the hub would be a good candidate for some of these programs, he said, such as the New Markets Tax Credits Program, a federal incentive geared toward promoting economic development in areas designated as low-income.

“So location, what it’s intended to do, how it helps rural manufacturers in New Hampshire and southeastern Vermont, how it’s in ... a growing industry, a precision industry — when you wrap it all up with the expertise at Keene State College, it’s a really attractive project,” Dugan said.

Keene State hopes to put the hub on Winchester Street on the site of Monadnock Hall, which would likely be razed rather than repurposed. An adjacent dorm, Randall Hall, would also be torn down to make room for green space, parking and entry points into the hub area, Treadwell said.

No one lives in Monadnock Hall, according to spokeswoman Kelly Ricaurte, though it can be used as overflow dorm space if the college’s other residence halls reach capacity. Randall Hall has not been used as a residence hall for four years, Ricaurte said in an email.

That building previously housed the Hungry Owl, a student-run food pantry that moved out of Randall Hall in the spring amid the building’s uncertain future, The Equinox, Keene State’s student newspaper, reported. Last week, the pantry moved into a suite in the Owl’s Nest residence hall, according to Faculty Adviser Susan Whittemore, and Treadwell said the college is working to find a more permanent location.

Though the hub will be focused on precision manufacturing and product design initially, Treadwell said she hopes it can act as a “catalyst” for important conversations about workforce development and potentially expand to other industries in the future.

“It should be a place where businesses feel like they can come, and they can access our students, our students can access them, and together, us, the community college, the management program, anyone can start solving the challenges of the next years ahead,” Treadwell said. “That’s the vision for it.”

The college hopes to finalize plans for the project this spring, Treadwell said, with a target opening date of fall 2021.


Dan Millbauer 

A decorative scarecrow makes for a festive sight as it peers over the fence of a home off Grove Street in Peterborough recently.


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Keene woman looks for answers after her cat was shot

Andrea Lake rushed her cat Batman to the veterinarian last Wednesday, thinking the 4-year-old had been hit by a car. Instead, she discovered he was shot.

Lake, 35, of Keene, said her cat was shot behind his right shoulder.

“It’s a big bullet when it comes to a cat, but it’s relatively small for bullets in general,” Lake said Monday evening. Dr. Lee Pearson of Cheshire Animal Hospital in Keene said he consulted with a police officer who initially thought there were two pellets — about .22-caliber — but because there was only one entry hole Pearson said it’s possible the projectile hit Batman’s vertebrae and split in half.

Keene police Lt. Steven Tenney said it’s unclear what type of weapon was used.

Now, Lake is looking for answers to who shot her pet, and why.

Batman was spotted by a driver, dragging himself by his front legs along Elm Street near Fuller Elementary School last Wednesday, Lake said. Lake, who lives nearby, said the driver asked if she had a cat, and they found Batman wounded under a bush.

Batman is now staying at Cheshire Animal Hospital with kidney issues. While he has regained some motion in his back left leg, Lake said she worries about the kidney condition after blood work came back earlier this week.

What has been even harder, she said, was telling her six children their cat had been shot.

“I just had to sit the kids down, tell them that Batman hadn’t been hit by a car, and had, in fact, been shot,” Lake said, adding the kids wondered how someone could be so cruel.

Tenney said officers are investigating.

“In this case, there wasn’t a lot to go off from because there weren’t any witnesses or anything like that ... It certainly appears that [the cat] was shot by some type of weapon.”

From her conversations with the vet, Lake said Batman couldn’t have been shot too far from her home and the school, given the severity of his condition and limited ability to drag himself by his front legs alone.

“[The veterinarian] said there’s no way [the cat] made it more than the length of a couple houses,” Lake said.

Despite being optimistic earlier, Lake said she is increasingly concerned about Batman’s prognosis amid the kidney issues. She added that she and her husband, John, have already spent $1,200 to keep the cat alive.

“Between my husband and I, we’ve kind of been bouncing back and forth with the vet between our schedules,” Lake said. “... It’s hard to know why the kidneys are that way, and if they’ll get better.”

Tenney said anyone with information on the case can call Keene police at 357-9813.


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Amid uptick in NH child poverty, Booker releases new policy plan

Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker recently unveiled a child-poverty policy plan, building on his Baby Bonds proposal to try to eliminate childhood hunger and give families a “Child Allowance” for each kid.

Booker discussed his Baby Bonds plan — which would give American children a nest egg adjusted to their parents’ wealth to be used upon turning 18 for approved investments like tuition and housing — in May on The Sentinel’s politics podcast, Pod Free or Die.

New Hampshire is one of 10 states that saw an uptick in child poverty recorded in 2018, according to KIDS COUNT, a research branch of the Annie E. Casey Foundation based in Baltimore.

While the problem’s prevalence had been trending downward in the Granite State over the past decade or so, the number of children living below the federal poverty line — currently set at $25,465 in annual income for a family of four — jumped from 20,000 in 2016 to 26,000 in 2017 and then 27,000 in 2018.

Those statistics, according to the KIDS COUNT database, show 11 percent of New Hampshire youth living in poverty and potentially going hungry in 2018. However, the 2018 data set puts the Granite State at the nation’s third lowest child poverty rate, with only Utah and North Dakota lower at 10 percent each.

Booker, the junior U.S. senator from New Jersey and former mayor of Newark, N.J., says he would expand the child tax credit to give families a $300 monthly cash allowance for each child 5 years old and younger, and $250 for kids up to 18.

The plan also targets a loophole in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which allows wealthier families to qualify for the credit while reducing deductions for larger families and limiting it to 15 percent of earned income over $2,500. Booker’s plan would reverse that measure, and phase out the credit for single parents earning more than $130,000 per year and couples taking in more than $180,000 annually.

The Booker campaign estimates this change would cut the child poverty rate nationwide in half, citing similar European models that achieved the same goal.

The United Kingdom’s 1999 universal child benefit, for example, halved childhood poverty by 2009.

“When it comes to child poverty, we cannot be silent. In the richest country in the world, we have a moral responsibility to look after each other and make sure that every child living in America has the opportunity to grow and thrive,” Booker said in a news release accompanying the plan.

Booker’s proposal would also increase the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP benefits — commonly known as food stamps — by 30 percent.

In Cheshire County, around 2,800 families rely on the program, according to the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services. The average New Hampshire family receiving food stamps gets about $200 a month, according to the state agency.

President Donald Trump’s approach to these benefits also comes under scrutiny in the Booker plan.

Aside from nearly lapsing at the end of January during the longest government shutdown in American history, SNAP could change under Trump’s July proposal that would cut the number of families eligible for the program.

To buttress these benefits, Booker proposes increasing access to summer meals in rural communities and including kids receiving free and reduced school lunches on the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer program, which gives families supplemental money for food when school is not in session.

The Booker campaign estimates 498,900 Granite Staters would benefit from the plan’s Rise Credit — essentially an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit — which is also folded into the plan.

Booker’s campaign team asserts that of the more than 170 policy plans they have counted as being released by other candidates so far in the 2020 presidential primary race, none has focused on child poverty, and the topic has not been broached in a presidential debate since 1999.


Exchange
FOR PRINT ONLY

Keene voters will cast ballots today in this year’s city primary, narrowing the field in races for mayor, City Council and other municipal offices. Polls are open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Here’s where to vote:

Ward 1: Michael E.J. Blastos Community Room, 400 Marlboro St., next to the Keene Police Department

Ward 2: Keene Recreation Center, 312 Washington St.

Ward 3: Keene Middle School, 167 Maple Ave.

Ward 4: Symonds School, 79 Park Ave.

Ward 5: Monadnock Covenant Church, 90 Base Hill Road

Additional information, including sample ballots, is available at the city’s website, https://ci.keene.nh.us/city-clerk/elections-voting. Check out questionnaires the candidates answered at SentinelSource.com.