KEENE — Keene State College and the city are forming a commission to tackle the joint futures of the college and city.
“The mayor and I have been talking with each other and really appreciate the reality and the fact that our futures are tied together. The college is the third largest employer in the area,” said Keene State College president Dr. Anne Huot on Tuesday.
Huot and Keene Mayor Kendall Lane plan to kick off the new collaboration at a public forum next week.
The community forum is open to the public and is planned for Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Heberton Hall, which is adjacent to the Keene Public Library.
“We decided we would start by giving everyone an opportunity to have a voice in the kind of things they are looking for,” Huot said, adding they are expecting around 100 people at the forum.
Huot and Lane will be the moderators of the forum.
“Basically we’re going to try to focus on the relationship of the two entities and some of the issues that exist in the community as the two of us connect with each other,” Lane said Wednesday.
The four main areas of discussion include student housing, parking in the college neighborhood, expansion of the college and the negative actions of some students after events like the Keene Pumpkin Festival and when Boston Red Sox won the World Series, Lane said.
Student housing refers to the students that live in neighborhoods throughout the city, which has both negative and positive impacts on some of the neighborhoods, Lane said. “We realize there are a lot of negative comments that we are going to receive in regards to students living in the neighborhoods.”
In regards to parking, the college and city would like to know how the neighborhood around the college is impacted.
“Are people experiencing a severe shortage of parking within the college neighborhood?” Lane asked, adding that perhaps additional parking should be planned.
In regards to space, the college has recently assessed that it is 500 square feet short of teaching space, Lane said, and there is talk of the college constructing a health and wellness center on Gilbo Avenue, prompting questions about how the community feels about the college expanding, Lane said.
And then of course there have been incidents of drunk and disorderly conduct by Keene State College students following the annual Keene Pumpkin Festival as well as after the Boston Red Sox World Series win.
“Basic student behavior and the issues relating to events like the pumpkin festival and the World Series and the impact it has and how best, do people feel, that kind of behavior should be addressed,” Lane said, referring to what ramifications there should be and what danger do those actions pose to the community.
Lane said he and Huot will not be looking for answers at the forum, but for the issues surrounding these topics, both positive and negative.
Input from the forum will be used to establish different committees or commissions to focus on each issue.Lane said the city would then try to implement the recommendations that come from the process, he said.