Group still hopes public can own land around Kimball Castle

GILFORD — The Kimball Wildlife Forest Committee yesterday reaffirmed its recommendation that the town acquire the land where what remains of the Kimball Castle stands and incorporate it into the Kimball Wildlife Forest. The group agreed to pursue a proposal to present to the public forum on the future of the property to be held on Wednesday, April 9.

Earlier this month, the committee suggested that the town have the property appraised, negotiate reasonable price with the owner — David and Mary Jodoin of Nashua, doing business as Kimball Castle Properties, LLC — and draw on grants, donations and trust funds to purchase the castle and 24 acres surrounding it. The castle would be secured then left to go to ruin.

Meanwhile, the Board of Selectmen found that "this investment is not in the town's best interest, especially when we consider the cumulative costs of town ownership (to include having to manage the care of several other structures, dealing with inevitable trespassers, potential liabilities, and the loss of tax revenue) for the sake of a dilapidated castle that would cost a fortune to rebuild."

By letter, the selectmen informed Sandy McGonagle, who chairs the Kimball Wildlife Forest Committee, that they concluded "there is very little support for the town to re-acquire this structure or the land on which it resides." Instead, the board agreed the property should remain on the tax rolls as a single family house lot and suggested the committee turn its attention to planning a memorial to the castle somewhere in the forest.

When the committee met yesterday, McGonagle acknowledged that in its deteriorating condition the castle represented a liability to the town and that its restoration is neither feasible nor practical. Moreover, Code Enforcement Officer Dave Andrade has ordered that the castle be "made safe" be April 30 and the Selectboard has authorized the owner to demolish it. The cost of encircling the castle with an eight-foot high chain-link fence is estimated at $25,000 while demolition is projected to cost $35,000.

Town Administrator Scott Dunn stressed that if the town acquired the property, the selectmen would not want the castle to remain standing. Furthermore, he reminded the committee that apart from the castle there are four other buildings on the property — a caretaker's cottage, carriage house, chauffer's cottage and stable — that would have to be maintained at a cost he estimated at $1,000 a year.

McGonagle said that there is no assurance that the Jodoins will accept an offer below their current asking price of $700,000 for the property. An accurate appraisal, she explained, would be required to seek funding to purchase the property. She said that the committee could approach the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) for a grant. Other possible sources of funds include the Kimball Wildlife Forest trust fund, which has a balance of about $270,000, the Land Conservation Fund, with a balance of some $300,000, and private donations. The Conservation Commission is scheduled to discuss drawing from the Land Conservation Fund for the project when it meets on Tuesday, March 4.

The committee agreed that whether or not the town ultimately acquired the property an appropriate memorial to Kimball Castle would be erected, either on the castle grounds or in the Kimball Forest. 

McGonagle pointed out that the Kimball Wildlife Forest Committee is convened and appointed by the Board of Selectmen and has only advisory powers. In particular, she noted that the Selectboard must approve any expenditures recommended by the committee regardless of the source of funds.