Mayor Kendall W. Lane
3 Washington St.
Keene, NH 03431
275 years ago a small band of pioneers travelled up the Connecticut River to the Ashuelot and then travelled overland along the Ashuelot to the place then called the Upper Township on the Ashuelot. They overcame wilderness, weather, starvation and hostile French and Indians who did not want English settlers in this area. In 1736 they cleared land for crops and livestock, built the first log cabins and established a community. This community struggled at first but finally took hold and prospered, growing to over a 1,000 people within 50 years. These earliest settlers were sent to protect the northwest frontier, but they came to establish a better life for themselves and their families.
And like those earliest settlers, today people come to Keene to establish a better life for themselves and their families. This community has grown and prospered and shown great resilience in the face of change. The Woolen Mills are gone, the railroads are gone, and yet today, we should look at our accomplishments and be proud of the results.
Planning has long been an integral part of this City. We completed our first Master Plan in 1927 and now we have completed our most recent Comprehensive Master Plan with over 2,000 people participating in the project.
The City is currently working with Honeywell to make energy efficient modifications to City buildings and operations, which will result in estimated savings of over $160,000.00 per year and reduce the carbon footprint by over 400 tons of carbon dioxide annually.
We are currently building a new central fire station to replace our current station built in 1873.
The American Planning Association designated Keene's Central Square as one of the top 10 Great Public Spaces in America and our downtown has become one of the most exciting and desirable places in the northeast, the envy of cities throughout America.
Standard and Poor's has raised the Cities bond rating from AA- to AA as a reflection of our stable and diverse economy, low unemployment rate and sound financial management. We have maintained health financial reserves and in the recent sale of city bonds the interest rate was 1.6%. While the state has reduced Revenue Sharing and room and meals tax and increased our share of pension liability, all at a cost of over $1.5 million annually to Keene's taxpayers, we have been able to hold property taxes stable and maintained city services without layoffs or furloughs and continued to rebuild our infrastructure as those who have had the inconvenience of roads, water lines and sewer lines torn up in their neighborhoods well know. These accomplishments, however, are merely the prelude to the challenges that we look forward to meeting.
We must more forward to implement the Comprehensive Master Plan. It is not enough to just write it, now we must put it to work. The City has already begun that process by aligning the Capital Improvement Program and the budget with the Master Plan. But in moving forward we need prepare a land use and zoning study of the Marlboro Street corridor. This is an area with the second widest street in the city and where residential, commercial and industrial uses all come together, but it is also an area of vacant properties waiting for a future direction for redevelopment. Neighborhoods such as Maple Avenue and Summit Road where the new Middle School and the new YMCA recently opened, Maple Avenue and Court Street, upper Washington Street and Beaver Street all create areas where residential and commercial uses combine to create vibrant walkable neighborhoods which the City should support and encourage. Rewriting our zoning and land use ordinances will be a necessary part of the implementation.
In Downtown, 30 years of work has resulted in a success story for the northeast, but the work continues. We are all excited and look forward to the Monadnock Food Coop while Gilbo Avenue remains a work in progress and a new County Courthouse is on the horizon. Parking remains an important issue as we address the downtown growth. Let us not become victims of our own success.
The Active and Passive Recreation Master plan and better access to our parks and trails are necessary aspects of preserving our quality of Life which is a story we need to tell as it brings workers and industry alike to Keene.
The Ashuelot River Dam and downtown behavior are both issues we will be facing in the coming year. And overarching all the other challenges facing the city, we must continue to provide jobs and housing for those who make Keene their home. Working with existing industry, finding sites both to expand new industry and to locate new industry and recruiting new industry remain at the forefront of all the work we have ahead of us. We are creating a quality of life second to none but if Keene is to continue to be a desirable place to live it is essential to have a balance between the Environmental quality, the economic quality and the social equity in our community.
Our goals are clear - to make Keene the best small city in America, to make this the first choice to raise a family, to get a job, to shop, to go to school. To achieve this and to maintain the quality of life is the challenge. Over the next 2 years we need to work together, not only as a city council but as a community made up of many people who care deeply about this City with a unified goal and a common purpose to chart the course for the future of our region and our community.