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Vote on whether to dissolve Cheshire TV set for July 1
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On July 1, Cheshire TV’s membership and board of directors plan to vote on whether to dissolve the nonprofit after its contract with Keene — and the substantial funding that came with it — was terminated.

On Tuesday, members of CTV’s board of directors met to discuss where the organization stands more than a week after its two public-access channels went dark. Though CTV’s board and its membership — consisting of people with a stake in the organization who vote on some business but which is separate from the board of directors — are set to determine the nonprofit’s fate in a month, the board has decided to take no action until it’s heard from members and assessed all its options.

CTV Executive Director Dave Kirkpatrick told The Sentinel after the meeting that while some board members have been ready to dissolve the organization, guidance he’s received from legal counsel, the station’s accountant and the state all point toward “parking” it for now.

“All the advice I’ve gotten has said, ‘Take your time, you have time, and you have options if you don’t dissolve the corporation right away; there may be benefits to that’,” he said after the meeting. “And there are no benefits to rushing it.”

Kirkpatrick, who has served as executive director since January, has said there are several ways the organization could move forward, including reconsidering CTV’s mission statement and taking the organization in a new direction. During Tuesday’s meeting, he said it wouldn’t be too difficult for CTV to “come out of hibernation” if the board chooses to do so later on and that it would be fairly easy to keep the organization’s nonprofit status active in the meantime.

Kirkpatrick has said CTV’s future could involve taking its operations online or finding ways to provide services to the community that it could charge for, via a for-profit business model. At Tuesday’s meeting, board member Ruzzel Zullo suggested working with Keene State College’s journalism department, as he said has been suggested in the past.

Kirkpatrick said board members who were originally ready to call it a day have now begun to agree that hanging on a bit longer may be a good idea. During the meeting, board member Kyrston Clouse said CTV needs time to see what financial resources remain.

“I think we need to wait and see what happens next and then take a hard look at what our financial standing is,” said Clouse, who added that the board could see what money it has left for staff or other overhead costs after meeting its existing financial obligations. “This is part of the reason why we talked about dissolving in the first place, was not really having a source of income anymore.”

CTV has faced much upheaval during the past year, starting in the summer when some connected to the organization criticized the conduct of its board of directors, particularly the board’s handling of CTV’s bylaws. In January, using a provision written into these bylaws and citing these concerns, CTV’s membership voted out several board members.

Shortly thereafter, the municipalities of Keene and Swanzey announced they were ending their agreements with CTV, as well as their financial contributions. Swanzey’s contributions ended immediately, while Keene gave 120 days’ notice.

Though Swanzey contributed a much smaller amount to the station — about $3,800 monthly — Keene provided CTV with the majority of its funding — about $180,000 per year — covered by franchise fees paid for by cable subscribers and then given to the city.

However, Keene’s notice of its intent to terminate the contract included a caveat: The agreement could continue but only if the municipalities that fund the station could have control of CTV’s board of directors. The board rejected a proposal that would have given control of the station to the funding municipalities.

The board later rejected a second proposal from Keene, which would have allowed CTV’s membership to elect a minority of board members, with the municipalities appointing the majority. With no resolution, Keene’s contract with CTV ended on May 21.

According to City Manager Elizabeth Dragon, Keene will retain most of the $181,800 it was paying to CTV each year while it considers future public-access projects, which could include working with the Keene School District. She said some of it will be used to pay for services to continue streaming city meetings, a function that had been performed by CTV.

Dragon said last month that while the city is no longer interested in discussing an extension to the old CTV contract, Keene would welcome feedback from CTV members and leaders as it weighs its options.

“We will ... consider any proposals CTV has moving forward and be happy to have their input as we explore models for PEG (Public, educational, and government) access into the future,” she said in an email.

This article has been changed to correct the amount of funding Swanzey was contributing to CTV.

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With Keene arts corridor stalled, local organizers move forward on own effort
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Surveying the Commercial Street parking lot in Keene last week, Jessica Gelter observed that the open expanse of asphalt felt particularly barren on an unseasonably hot day.

But Gelter, the executive director of the Keene nonprofit Arts Alive, sees the lot as part of a vibrant downtown arts revitalization — a vision introduced by the Monadnock Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) two years ago as an “arts corridor” along Gilbo Avenue.

MEDC has suspended those plans, as the organization develops a new strategic direction amid a financial crunch, City Manager Elizabeth Dragon said earlier this year.

With that project stalled, Arts Alive organizers are crafting their own vision for a downtown arts renaissance, Gelter, whose organization supports the arts in the Monadnock Region, has told The Sentinel previously.

She cautioned last week, however, that Arts Alive’s modest operating budget will keep it from replicating the expansive $30 million project that MEDC had proposed, which included a large pavilion, live-in artist studios and a block-long pedestrian mall on Gilbo Avenue. With limited resources, the nonprofit is working with private companies and other local arts promoters on the new plans, which Gelter said has added a grassroots element missing from MEDC’s effort.

“A lot of what we heard [from the arts community] is that it was a top-down plan,” she said.

Arts Alive’s vision would build on several private initiatives that Gelter said are already turning downtown Keene into a cultural hotbed.

Those include ongoing renovations at The Colonial Performing Arts Center and the creation of its new Showroom performance space on Commercial Street, she said. They also include Nova Arts — a live music venue at Brewbakers Cafe on Emerald Street — and plans for a new creative hub with artist studios at 17-19 Federal St.

Gelter said she hopes to create a pop-up market in the Commercial Street lot, which sits between those buildings, where local artists could display and sell their wares. That may include partnering with the Farmers’ Market of Keene, since those vendors also use the area twice a week in the warmer months, she said.

Eventually, Gelter said she’d like to see permanent covered structures installed in the city-owned lot, which could offer electric-vehicle charging stations and also provide shelter and electricity for artists’ booths at the market. (The lot already has uncovered charging stations for electric vehicles.)

“I love the idea of mixed-use spaces,” she said.

In addition to the Commercial Street redevelopment proposal, she said Arts Alive wants to help establish a publicly accessible venue, like a museum or interactive studio, to complement the performance spaces downtown that aren’t open all day. Another effort may include installing outdoor sculptures and other temporary art installations around the city, according to Gelter, who said the new plans more closely resemble an “amoeba” than a corridor.

“We spent a lot of time doing structural planning last year, and I’m just so ready to do stuff,” she said. “… It’s such an artsy place. There’s such a need for studios and retail space.”

The project would likely incorporate renovations to the skatepark on Wilson Street, at the west end of the Commercial Street lot, Gelter said — another component adopted from the MEDC plan.

Kathleen Burke, a project coordinator for several years, said organizers have raised $225,000 for a new park and have partnered with the Keene nonprofit Friends of Public Art and a North Carolina-based skatepark builder to develop a creative design.

“We are going to make this a very art-inspired skatepark,” she said.

Burke said organizers would like to move the 9,800-square-foot park, which is on city land, to an adjacent lot on Gilbo Avenue and expand it by more than 2,000 square feet.

But that proposal is unlikely, according to Parks, Recreation and Facilities Director Andy Bohannon, who said Tuesday that Keene officials have been unable to negotiate moving the park to that vacant lot. Bohannon added, however, that the city remains interested in finding a new place for the park downtown.

“Unless that other location comes forward quickly, it’ll be built in the same spot,” he said.

Arts Alive will have a formal opportunity to refine its plans for the downtown arts revitalization later this year, after the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded the nonprofit a $6,000 grant to host a workshop on that project.

Gelter said the organization will use those funds — from the NEA’s Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design program — for stipends to help local artists, downtown businesses and other nonprofits attend the workshop in an effort to incorporate broad community input. Arts Alive hopes to host the event this fall, she said.

Gelter said other elements of a downtown revitalization should include creating a new transportation center on Gilbo Avenue, which the Southwest Region Planning Commission has explored in recent years, and adding 24-hour public restrooms. Arts Alive doesn’t have the resources for those projects, but she said the organization hopes to find partners for them.

“We’re in the dreams phase,” she said.

Memed away: ‘Karen’ as a baby name is going the way of the dodo

No one wants to name their baby girl Karen any more.

The name has tanked in popularity over the past year, according to figures released by the Social Security Administration.

Throughout 2020 the name Karen fell a whopping 171 spots on the popularity list, from a low of 660 to number 831, Huffington Post reported Tuesday.

The name’s popularity had already been ebbing, falling to its lowest ranking since 1929 by the end of last year, Huffington Post reported in September 2020. While it fell 23 spots to 660 on the list of popular baby names for 2019, it has plummeted even more since then.

The parents of just 325 baby girls named their daughter Karen last year, down from 439 in 2019, Huffington Post said, citing the SSA.

In 1965, at the name’s peak popularity, nearly 33,000 newborns were named Karen, HuffPo noted.

While there’s no scientific link between the name Karen and the pejorative connotations with the entitled white woman who “wants to speak to the manager,” there’s no denying that The Name That Launched a Thousand Memes is morphing into something less than desirable.

How could it not, with connotations like the “Central Park Karen” who falsely called police to say a Black bird-watcher who had asked her to comply with the rules and leash her dog had actually threatened to harm her? Or the so-called SoHo Karen, who wrongfully accused a Black boy of stealing her cellphone? Or a woman actually named Karen, who refused to mask up in an Ohio grocery store?

“Baby names are always a mirror of the times,” noted the website Baby Center last October, noting that 2020’s changes reflected “a year of loss and political divisiveness,” with “Kobe” leaping 175 percent after the helicopter-crash death of basketball great Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, whose name popularity soared even further, by 216 percent.

Also gaining in popularity were Kamala, up 104 percent, and Liberty, which rose 12 percent, while Karen dropped by 13 percent, the parenting website said in its own list of popular baby names for 2020, based on its own database of 550,000 babies born in 2020 to parents registered on BabyCenter.

Similar “stats” apply around the world, with a poll that asked 6,000 British parents and parents-to-be to list “the top three names they would never dream of calling their child,” The New Zealand Herald reported in December. There, too, Karen falls far from the list of most desirable names.

“Boris is the most disliked name for a baby boy,” the Herald said, and “in a blow to the U.K. [Prime Minister] Boris Johnson, is even more unpopular than the name Donald.”

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Rindge panel tables proposal for 20 new homes near Route 119
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RINDGE — The planning board has tabled a proposal to build 20 single-family homes off Route 119, which a project representative said would include two large lots for the brothers who own the property.

At a hearing Tuesday night, board members voted unanimously to wait for more details on the plan, after multiple Rindge residents voiced concerns over its possible ecological effects, among other issues.

The homes would be built over five years on a large vacant site behind Carol’s Ice Cream on Route 119, with access via a cul-de-sac from the state highway, Kirk Stenersen of the Rindge engineering firm Higher Design said in his site-plan presentation. Most of the lots would measure between two and four acres, he said, though three of them — including a pair on Rugg Pond, at the north end of the site — would be at least 14 acres.

Stenersen, who also serves as Rindge’s planning director, told the board that Shawn and Rodney Seppala, who own the vacant property and who also run the Rindge interior design company Triumph Interiors, would live at the two houses on the pond. The brothers “aren’t really developers,” Stenersen said, but want to move from their current homes to larger properties.

They acquired the Route 119 property in June 2020 for $260,000, according to property records.

The brothers’ proposal calls for redeveloping 95 acres that Stenersen said have been used for logging in the past but are now largely forested.

That plan drew concerns from several residents attending the hearing at the Rindge Recreation Building on Tuesday. (It was also livestreamed for people to view remotely.)

Joel Kaplan, who lives nearby on Letourneau Lane, told the planning board that he’s concerned the new development would displace wildlife living on that site and possibly send them toward his house, explaining that three black bears have visited his property recently.

“That puts my family at risk,” he said. “If they lose their food source … they’re going to [look] for food sources at houses nearby.”

Kaplan added that the proposal could limit the water available to his and other abutters’ well systems and also asked board members to consider whether adding 20 new homes would be too abrupt for the town, pointing to several dozen units proposed by the Rindge-based Navian Development Co. at a different site on Route 119.

Voicing similar wildlife-related concerns, Judy Unger-Clark also urged the board to request a study of possible ground contamination at a defunct gas station on Route 119, near the proposed entrance to the community. Unger-Clark argued that it would also be a conflict of interest for Stenersen to represent the residential development and, as planning director, offer advice to board members while they consider the project.

“This is duplicitous and inappropriate,” she said. “… The planning board needs to realize that this is unethical.”

Board member Katelyn Smith responded, however, that Stenersen is not advising the board on the Route 119 development, given his involvement with the project. She added that Stenersen works part time for the town at a “severely reduced rate.”

“We’re lucky to have him on board,” she said.

Stenersen could not be reached Wednesday morning for comment.

Acknowledging that the development would be a “big project,” planning board Chairman Jonah Ketola recommended that the board wait until it reviews a wildlife study and inquiry into possible soil contamination at the former gas station before voting on the application. The board agreed.

Ketola said he’d also like the developers to add a vehicle pull-off along the cul-de-sac, which they’ve proposed naming Kings Way.

The planning board will review the site June 15 with members of the Rindge Conservation Commission.