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Pandemic won't stop locals from cycling to benefit cancer research

For the past 12 years, Michael Mickiewicz has traveled to Massachusetts to ride in a popular annual bike-a-thon to benefit Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

And even though the COVID-19 pandemic shifted this year’s in-person challenge to a remote one, the Spofford resident said he’s still carrying out his commitment.

“Everybody is there for basically the same reason — to put an end to cancer,” said Mickiewicz, 75.

Mickiewicz is one of five Cheshire County residents expected to participate in this year’s Pan-Mass Challenge.

Traditionally, the event — which started in 1980 in Needham, Mass. — consists of 12 bike routes, each with a different start and finish point, spanning anywhere from 25 to 192 miles, over the first weekend of August. Participants can choose routes that fit their schedules and cycling abilities, according to the challenge’s website. The most popular route takes cyclists from Sturbridge, Mass., to Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod, with an overnight stop in Buzzards Bay.

The event donates all rider-raised dollars to the cause, generating more than half of the annual revenue for Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund. The agency receives donations from community-based fundraising events that benefit cancer research, according to a news release the Pan-Mass Challenge issued Friday.

There would typically be a fundraising goal, but this year, due to the pandemic, riders are simply being encouraged to fund-raise to the best of their abilities. Last year, the event raised $63 million.

Since its inception, the challenge has donated $717 million to adult and pediatric cancer care and research.

Though organizers this year still hope to raise money, the riders will be scattered all over the globe due to the pandemic.

“While we’re unable to move forward with our ride safely in the same way we have over the past 40 years, we cannot and will not let our community or Dana-Farber down,” Billy Starr, founder and executive director of the Pan-Mass Challenge, said in the release.

By making the event remote, Starr said, the hope is “to inspire even more participation from those joining us at home.”

The challenge — which kicks off with a televised opening ceremony July 31, followed by the event on Aug. 1 — expects more than 10,000 bicyclists, volunteers, donors and supporters to participate in their hometowns, the release says.

Participants can choose between riding their entire route on Aug. 1 or break up the mileage over a few days, according to Mickiewicz.

Cancer survivors, their loved ones and people who’ve lost someone to cancer are among the participants, the release notes.

In addition to Mickiewicz, the other Cheshire County participants will be Stephanie Hosking of Keene, Tony Triano of Keene, Chris Peahl of Rindge and Jon MacClaren of Walpole.

Mickiewicz said he’s been training with his son and a friend of his, both of whom have participated in the challenge before. But this year would’ve marked their first time biking together at the traditional event.

The trio still plans to bike together, he said, and will likely do two days of 50-mile rides — similar to their training routes.

While disappointed to miss the usual camaraderie that comes from other cyclists and volunteers, Mickiewicz said he is still excited to participate. The Pan-Am Challenge has become a summer staple in New England and draws wide media coverage.

“It’s a great cause,” he said, “and if you like riding it’s an unbelievable experience to finish the ride.”


Kurt Schmidt

A bear tries to grab a meal in a Fitzwilliam yard the morning of June 25. After getting this picture him, photographer Kurt Schmidt went outside and shouted at the bear for crashing his bird feeders. “As he rambled off down my back yard, he was moaning softly, presumably because I’d interrupted his breakfast,” Schmidt wrote.


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Durham officials worried about return of UNH students

DURHAM — Local residents are growing concerned over the potential of a COVID-19 spike due to a lack of precautionary measures taken by University of New Hampshire students, according to Town Administrator Todd Selig.

Selig said he and other Durham officials are responding to a growing number of resident complaints about a lack of mask wearing and social distancing by students living in off-campus housing. With the majority of students slated to move into on-campus housing beginning Aug. 10, uneasiness over an influx of students without masks or social distancing is rising.

“The residents see the congregating of young people who are very likely students and they’re worried that the lack of precautionary measures of students will create an environment where the virus will begin to run rampant,” Selig said.

The town issued an order May 28 requesting community members and visitors wear face coverings when necessary to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

Residents like Sam Flanders worry about student gatherings and parties at off-campus locations.

“I would like to see strict limits at social gatherings in town,” he said. “The fact that there is widespread alcohol use at these gatherings means that the attendees are less likely to be paying attention to the potential risks. Of course, a unique problem with COVID-19 is that some infected people show no observable danger signs whatsoever but may be highly infectious.”

Flanders hopes the university will test students beyond the planned initial test for everyone returning for the semester.

“Testing frequency and sample selection must be chosen intelligently so that it can serve as an early warning, allowing easier contact tracing, so that spikes in infection rates can be managed before they turn into situations like we are seeing in some southern states,” he said.

Selig said most students living in off-campus housing began their leases July 1. As he has driven through town recently, he said, he estimates about 40 percent of people he sees are not wearing masks, most appear to be college-aged and many are clustered in large groups.

“We’ve broken up parties of 50,” he said. “The police department is very concerned, the fire department is very concerned, the citizens are very concerned.”

Durham Police Chief David Kurz said the number of students in Durham’s off-campus housing options seems higher than in past summers. “We attribute that as just wanting to get away,” he said.

Kurz said masks are recommended for young people even more so now as rates of infection increase among them. Balancing responding to residents’ concerns and worrying about asymptomatic carriers, Kurz said he’s anxious in terms of police management as students reconvene and interact with residents.

“I understand that it’s frustrating for people, and it’s frustrating for us,” he said.

UNH Police Chief Paul Dean wrote in an email about the collaboration between UNH and Durham officials to ensure measures to stop the virus’ spread on campus.

“UNH leaders from several units have been working collaboratively with town leaders and landlords for many weeks on the return of students for the fall semester,” he wrote. “We take this very seriously and are committed to working together closely to ensure that every member of our collective communities is following the recommendations around the wearing of masks or cloth face coverings and physical distancing.

“We will have an extensive educational and public health campaign in place and there will be consequences for members of the university community who do not follow the established guidelines. The university will clearly set and communicate expectations well before the start of the semester.”

In a joint email to students by the UNH Admissions Office, Student Body President Nicholas Fitzgerald and Vice President Tyler Silverwood, students must abide by “required mask wear while in the interior of campus facilities and outside when physical distancing is not possible.”

“The worst outcome for the fall semester would be if the campus had to close again because students, faculty and staff don’t play active roles and we have a dangerous spike in COVID-19 cases. To help prepare for our arrival we ask that you create or purchase at least three reusable cloth masks or face coverings,” the email stated.

Per UNH’s COVID-19 webpage, the university aims to be in a restricted mode of operation for the semester. However, operations currently stand at limited, which means no student or external events, take-out only from on-campus dining and reduced research enterprise.

Selig said the town may pursue a face-covering mandate similar to one passed by Nashua’s Board of Aldermen, but he is waiting to see if Nashua’s order survives a lawsuit against it.

“As a town, we’ve been working to be so proactive with the tools at our disposal and we are working closely and collaboratively with the university on this issue,” he said. “This is not a task for the faint of heart.”


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Local businesses received over $100M in federal aid for losses during COVID

Between $100 million and $200 million from the federal Paycheck Protection Program was awarded to more than 1,500 businesses and nonprofit organizations in the Monadnock Region, according to data published by the U.S. Treasury.

Of those, 189 businesses received somewhere between $150,000 and $5 million apiece, for a total of $61.8 million to $153.3 million, while the remainder received smaller loans ranging from $300 to $149,700, for an additional $46.26 million.

For those smaller loans, the data show exact dollar figures but do not name the businesses. The entities that received larger loans are identified by name, but the amounts they received are reported in ranges.

That’s why it’s unclear precisely how much money flowed into the area from the program, but the total falls somewhere between $108.1 million and $199.5 million.

The Sentinel analyzed data for the 31 New Hampshire communities within the paper’s coverage area. The local companies and organizations that received loans come from all manner of industries, including manufacturers, restaurants, car dealerships, educational facilities, construction companies and more.

The Paycheck Protection Program, implemented by the U.S. Small Business Administration, is part of the CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion relief package signed into law by President Donald Trump in late March in response to the economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally, $349 billion was earmarked for the program. Another $310 billion was added when that quickly ran out.

The program is meant to help relatively small companies keep their employees on the payroll, as many were forced to temporarily suspend operations due to the outbreak. The loans are forgivable if 60 percent of the money is spent on payroll.

Keene Mayor George Hansel said this funding has been “vital” for area businesses.

“Small businesses represent our largest employment base,” Hansel said. “To make sure that they can weather this storm is super important and that relief funding just helped on so many levels to make sure we could keep people employed.”

Hansel’s family owns Filtrine Manufacturing Co., a Keene-based business that received between $1 million and $2 million from the Paycheck Protection Program.

The government released the Paycheck Protection Program data last week after pressure from the media and lawmakers. The program has come under fire for providing loans to large companies and has been criticized for failing to consider how much in need applicants were.

In the Monadnock Region, seven entities received loans between $2 and $5 million: WKS Inc., which providers support services for people with disabilities, in Keene; Jebediah S. Christy D.D.S. in Keene; 2 Percent Hospitality Inc., which owns the Monadnock Inn in Jaffrey; the building-supply retailer Belletetes, based in Jaffrey; Franklin Pierce University in Rindge; Peterborough Retirement Community at Upland Farm Inc., which operates as RiverMead; and William F. Fenton LLC, also known as Fenton Family Dealerships, which has locations in Keene and Swanzey.

Another 11 recipients were awarded between $1 and $2 million each.

The Keene Sentinel was awarded a loan in the $350,000 to $1 million range.

In the Monadnock Region, Keene received more loans than any other community, with 401 recipients getting less than $150,000 and 68 receiving between $150,000 and $5 million. The next highest was Peterborough, with 168 loans under $150,000 and 19 larger ones.

Businesses were quick to take advantage of the program, and the funding ran out in less than two weeks. Eventually, another $310 billion was added.

Hansel said that while the program has been a big help for larger businesses that have a payroll to maintain, the self-employed and sole proprietors didn’t receive the same benefits.

“A couple of businesses I’ve been working with ... that don’t have any employees, they seem to have fallen through the cracks [until] the SELF program,” Hansel said, referencing a recent state initiative to provide relief to the self-employed. “So I’m hopeful the last couple [businesses] that I know were having problems accessing relief funds will be taken care of with this SELF program.”

The Paycheck Protection Program wasn’t the only avenue for New Hampshire businesses to get financial assistance after COVID-19-related losses. The Main Street Relief Fund, established by Gov. Chris Sununu in May, has provided $16.7 million in grants to 276 businesses in Cheshire County, according to data published by the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery.

The Keene Sentinel was awarded $41,299 through that fund.

Lawmakers are considering a new round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program. U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., was scheduled to be in Newport Monday to visit a trucking business that received funding and to highlight her support for additional money.

The application window for the Paycheck Protection Program was scheduled to expire at the end of June, but on Saturday, Trump signed a bill extending that until Aug. 8.

Hansel commended two smaller regional lenders, Lebanon-based Mascoma Bank and Savings Bank of Walpole, for wasting no time in helping local businesses get loans. Of the more than 1,500 loans made in the Monadnock Region, Mascoma Bank facilitated 205 and Savings Bank of Walpole arranged 404.

“We’re very lucky that our local banks ... were right on top of the PPP program,” Hansel said. “They did the businesses in the Monadnock Region a tremendous service by really leading the way there.”


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Police: Man arrested after shooting in Brattleboro injures one

BRATTLEBORO — Police say they arrested a Mississippi man in connection with an alleged shooting Saturday night that left one person injured.

Emanuel R. Tenner III, 22, of Natchez, Miss., has been charged with attempted second-degree murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and recklessly endangering another person, according to according to a news release issued by the department Sunday morning. Officers have recovered what they believe is the weapon used in the shooting, the release said.

Officers were conducting an investigation in the parking lot of a Canal Street business when they heard several gunshots coming from a nearby hotel around 8 p.m., according to the release. After responding, officers found one person who had been shot, the release said. That person was transported to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital before being moved to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon.

Brattleboro police did not have information about the victim’s condition as of Sunday morning, the release said.

The release does not further describe the circumstances of the suspected shooting or whether Tenner knew the alleged victim. Police were not immediately reachable for additional comment Sunday.

Henry Lee, a Connecticut resident passing through Brattleboro on vacation, said he heard what sounded like five shots around 7:50 p.m. while in the commercial parking lot on Canal Street near Interstate 91 that houses the Price Chopper Market 32 and Econo Lodge.

He said he thought the shots were fired outside, near the back of the Econo Lodge. He then saw people running from that direction into the main parking lot and screaming, he said. “I just yelled to my daughter to get in the car and we took off” before calling 911, he said in an email Sunday.

Police were already nearby, Lee said, because they had been responding to an incident on the other side of the plaza, near the Dollar Tree.

Tenner is being held without bail and is scheduled to appear in court Monday at 12:30 p.m., according to police.

The investigation is ongoing, and Brattleboro police have asked anyone with information to contact them. The department’s tip line is (802) 251-8188.

This article has been updated with an account from a witness.

Sentinel staff writer Paul Cuno-Booth contributed to this report.