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Two candidates to seek council's nod as new Ward 3 representative

A pair of Ward 3 residents have thrown their hats into the ring to fill a vacancy on the Keene City Council, in a race that will be decided by current councilors this week.

Bryan Lake, an analyst for C&S Wholesale Grocers, and Andrew Madison, who works for the state as an environmental scientist, were the only two people to file for the seat. On Thursday, the council will meet with both men and vote on who will fill the Ward 3 vacancy left by former Councilor Terry Clark, who resigned last month.

Ward 3 covers the north-central portion of the city, extending up to the Surry border, with its western boundary running along Old Walpole Road and its southernmost part coming to a point at Central Square. Each of the city’s five wards has two councilors, with five councilors elected to serve the community at large. Ward 3’s other councilor is Michael Giacomo.

Lake, 30, is a lifelong Keene resident who recently bought his first home in Ward 3, but also grew up there, and several of his family members still live in the city. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Keene State College and is an active member of the Keene Disc Golf Club.

With his background in science, Lake said he would like to be able to provide input on a number of matters facing the council, such as the rollout of 5G technology, the implementation of the city’s recently approved renewable-energy plan and also the potential unwinding of COVID-19 precautions later this year as more and more people are vaccinated against the virus.

“I’ve been looking for a way to get more involved in the city over the last year and had already begun to do research into the City Council and the other city Boards & Commissions when I heard Mayor [George] Hansel discussing the open Council position on his Saturday WKBK segment,” Lake told The Sentinel in an email. “He mentioned how this would be a perfect opportunity for someone who may be a bit of a political outsider to get involved due to the non-standard election and campaign process.”

In addition, Lake said he’s interested in exploring ways to drive up community involvement in both city matters and local school issues. He noted that there was only a 3 percent voter turnout during last week’s Keene Board of Education elections and budget vote, which he called “unfortunate.”

He said he also wants to make sure city residents are aware of state-level activities that could have an impact on them and that he has an interest in preserving hiking and recreation areas. Specifically, he pointed to a recent discussion about whether motorized vehicles should be allowed on Old Gilsum Road, a dirt path that is heavily trafficked by hikers and bicyclists, which was prompted by a resident of the area asking to use an ATV there. (The resident, Kevin Leary, has since requested to use a city-owned utility road instead.)

“We should find a solution that works for the requestor while maintaining the safety and long term structure of these actively hiked paths,” he said.

Madison, the other candidate seeking the vacant seat, has lived in Ward 3 for the past seven years, according to a bio he submitted to the city along with his application. In addition to his work as an environmental scientist for the N.H. Department of Environmental Services, Madison, 35, is also a member of Keene’s Conservation Commission.

He moved to Keene from Indiana after finishing graduate school in 2014, where he started job with a Walpole nonprofit that worked with rural drinking water systems. He’s been in Keene ever since, aside from a brief stint in Concord in 2019.

He holds a master’s degree in environmental science from Indiana University and a bachelor’s degree in geography from Salem State University in Massachusetts. While saying he has significant experience working for both the federal and state governments, Madison said he has also worked in the nonprofit sector.

Despite the challenges Keene has faced during the past year, Madison said he sees an opportunity for the city to make a strong comeback from the pandemic and for it to set the example for other New Hampshire communities. Keene can continue to meet challenges through policy based on science and data, he said.

“I believe we can provide affordable housing while still addressing climate change,” he wrote, “we can fight COVID while saving our small businesses, that we’re better as a community when everyone in our city has an equal and fair chance to succeed and live their best life, and that we can develop economically while still maintaining Keene’s unique charm.”

Like Lake, Madison said he is interested in boosting civic participation, which he said could be done by enhancing access to polling places and to public hearings. He also said he would like to be involved in implementing the city’s energy plan by looking for “practical, results based actions” that can be taken to reduce the city’s environmental impact.

In addition, he said he’d like to focus on the city’s recreation offerings.

“We have one of the world’s most hiked mountains only 20 minutes away, we have miles upon miles of scenic hiking and rail trails, some of the regions best mountain biking and disc golf courses, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he said in an email to The Sentinel. “It could be a gold mine for Keene, and I want to identify partners who can help make it a reality.”

During the council’s meeting Thursday, candidates will have five minutes to address the council and explain why they would like to be considered for the position before councilors vote. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. and can be viewed via Zoom. Access information can be found on the calendar on the city’s website.Mia Summerson can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1435, or msummerson@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @MiaSummerson

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Keene family wins $1K from Recycled Percussion treasure hunt
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Deanna Tyler was just looking forward to a day out, according to her sister, Alissa Tyler.

Having recently battled breast cancer in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Deanna, 37, hasn’t had many opportunities to spend time with her family in public.

But on Saturday morning, just a month after she found out she’s in remission, the Keene residents’ day took an exciting turn: They won $1,000.

“It was not about the money,” Alissa, 40, said in a text. “It was all about having fun with the kids.”

Their winnings were part of a treasure hunt put on by Recycled Percussion, a New Hampshire-based band that performs using buckets and other household items and appeared on season four of the television show America’s Got Talent.

The band — which announced recently it will open a store under its Chaos & Kindness brand in Keene this spring — posted on its Facebook page this past Thursday that a prize worth $1,000 had been hidden somewhere in the city. While actual cash wasn’t tucked away, an item that could be traded in for a grand had been, the post explained.

Starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, clues to the prize’s whereabouts were posted to the band’s Facebook page.

“This is just the beginning of what we hope to be doing in Keene,” Justin Spencer, the band member who founded Recycled Percussion, said in a statement Saturday morning. “Bringing people, families and community together to have some Chaos & Kindness in their lives.”

Deanna — along with her children, twins Arabella and Asher, 10; and Kinsley, 6; as well as her sister — found the prize in just over an hour. The orange Recycled Percussion drumstick was tucked under a stack of mattresses on Adams Street behind Penuche’s Ale House.

Right after finding it, the family drove to the band’s original Chaos & Kindness store in Laconia to collect their winnings.

“It’s totally our thing,” Alissa said of solving clues. “It’s funny because we are a super close family, so for different holidays and stuff I usually hide the things for scavenger hunts and stuff, so the kids were all excited for this.”

The clues the band released Saturday started fairly vague, telling followers the prize was hidden within two miles of The Colonial Theatre.

Next was a close-up photo of the drumstick beneath the mattresses, next to some broken glass.

The third clue said the prize was within a triangle of Route 12 and two streets listed as “Mar — — — — — and Ba — — — .”

A fourth clue showed part of the wall of Wheelock Elementary, across the street from where the drumstick was hidden.

“We actually drove by the school a few times ... and we were looping back, and as I drove past Penuche’s, I spotted a piece of glass behind the mattress, so I said, ‘Just stop and I’ll look,’ “ Alissa said.

Meanwhile, sisters Lori Santorio and Kelly Frye, both of Keene, were also on the hunt.

Self-proclaimed Recycled Percussion superfans, Santorio said she and her sister figured out the third clue was referring to Marlboro and Baker streets almost immediately.

“We came so close,” Santorio, 59, said of finding the prize. But “it was such an amazing experience. It really was. People were having so much fun.”

Brian Dixon of Brattleboro set out on the search with his nieces, Ella Baldacchino and Larkyn Anderson, his nephew Quenton Bedward, and his friend Lori Hoover.

“I don’t even know where they ended up finding it,” Dixon, 40, said. “The whole ‘winning the money’ thing would be fun, but it was just so fun to be out there and see all the people out smiling and getting fresh air.”

Heather Morse, 23, of Springfield, Vt., also said she enjoyed getting outside with her sister and their two one-year-old children. And with an infant, she added that the $1,000 “would’ve been nice.”

“But it was fun,” she said.

Morse said searching for the prize was also a bit stressful.

It “gave me a lot of anxiety at times,” she said with a laugh, “because I was driving, getting out and walking, and then back in the car, and then driving again. People were driving like maniacs, and people walking everywhere ... so just very hectic.”

Now that the chaos is over, Alissa said the family is still deciding what to use their winnings for.

“We let the kids each buy something at the [Chaos & Kindness] store, knowing it would come out of that money, and what we’ll do with the rest I don’t know,” she said. “Probably something with the kids.”

This article has been updated with additional information.

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Some essential workers in NH feel sidelined by vaccine distribution

Some essential workers in New Hampshire, especially those who come into contact with many people each day, say they’ve been sidelined in the vaccine distribution process.

Nathan Soucy, a waiter at Firefly American Bistro in Manchester, says he is at higher risk of contracting and spreading COVID, given the nature of his job.

“When a table seats, you know, sits down, I bring them water, they’re allowed to take their mask off from that point on and the only time they have to put a mask on is when they get up from their table.”

Soucy and some of his coworkers collaborated on petition to Gov. Chris Sununu, asking for restaurant workers to be included in phase 2b.

When asked about any priority for this group at a press conference Thursday, Sununu said that priority is based on risk level alone, and that age should be the top determinant.

The state has prioritized some groups of people by profession like teachers and childcare workers, who are beginning to get vaccinated today, in group 2a.

Frances Bader, a grocery worker in Bedford, feels similar frustration to Soucy. Bader estimates that she comes into contact with over 100 people each day. And she says, not all of them are wearing their masks.

“You know, they pull them down to talk and they don’t distance themselves, they really come right up to you. You know, we back away. But, there’s only so so far we can go”

This week, Bader received a text message from her employer that a COVID-19 case had been confirmed at her location.

While Bader herself will soon be able to register for the vaccine, as she falls into the 2b, 50+ group, she says, for many of her coworkers, that’s simply not the case.

Wesley Smith, who works in private security, like Bader, has also seen cases in his workplace. And that makes him worried for the health of his family.

“My wife and I just had our son last August, he was born right in the thick of it [the pandemic], and even before that, but definitely since that day, every day I go to work, I wonder if I’m going to cross paths with that one employee who might have been exposed.”

A study from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, suggests that workers in non-medical essential fields, like food workers, are at greater risk of dying from COVID-19 than the average worker. The study looked at excess deaths among working-age Californians from March to October 2020, and compared the death rates by occupation to previous years.

The study concluded that, “Certain occupational sectors have been associated with high excess mortality during the pandemic, particularly among racial and ethnic groups also disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Vaccine distribution prioritizing in-person essential workers will be important for reducing excess COVID mortality.”

In its guidance for states, the CDC recommends prioritizing essential workers, placing postal service workers and grocery store workers among those in its 1b recommendations. New Hampshire, like many other states, has opted for a more age based system of distribution.