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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.

Last Updated on Friday, 28 February 2014 01:35

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Some Belmont Mill bricks crumble when door frame is removed

BELMONT — Selectmen authorized the town administrator to contact a structural engineer Monday night to get an estimate on fixing the interior brick work in the front hallway on the historical Belmont Mill after it partially collapsed Saturday.

According to Building Inspector Steve Paquin, the brick work around the front door crumbled Saturday morning after town employees removed it to replace the framing.

"The steel frame was rotted at the bottom," Paquin said yesterday.

He said once the door came out, the brickwork crumbled, causing some damage to the front stairwell, which provides access to the bell tower that is not used. He said they were able to use wood to shore up the frame and the building is structurally safe and sound.

The primary entrance to the Belmont Mill is on the other side of the building where there is an elevator. Paquin said this entrance was only used by the day care center and, in an emergency, there are still two ways to get out of the center .

Paquin explained that interior brick was not built to withstand any outside elements such as water and that because the building was open for a number of years after it burned, some of the brick has been compromised.

He said engineers from Bonnett, Page and Stone in Laconia were there for about 90 minutes Tuesday and will be coming up with a repair solution.

"I have asked them to fast-track it because I really want that entrance open," Paquin said.

When told of the interior wall collapse, selectmen agreed that this could be a recurring problem throughout the interior of the building and that a great deal of the interior brick may have to be removed.

Ultimately, said Selectman Ruth Mooney, the town may have to build a "building within a building."

Paquin said he couldn't comment on the size and scope of the issue until the town gets the engineering report, but noted that the historical element of the building is its exterior.
He said many of the interior walls have already been replaced but there are some places, and the front stairwell is one of them, where that had not happened.

In related news, Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin informed the board that the fourth floor and the portion of the second floor former occupied by the Lakes Region Community College Culinary Arts Program is no longer required to meet low-to-middle income usage, saving the town $21,000 this year.

The mill was partially restored using a $1 million USDA Community Development Block Grant that restricts its use to low-to-middle income uses.

This means the town won't have to reimburse the Community Development Finance Authority $21,000 to use the second floor space for the Department of Parks and Recreation.


Last Updated on Friday, 28 February 2014 01:07

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Davis Place apartment building owner looking for new homes for tenants

LACONIA — Fire Chief Ken Erickson said yesterday that the N.H. State Fire Marshal is still working to determine the cause of a 4-alarm building fire on Davis Place that took the life of a local man Tuesday night.

He said the name of the victim is not being released at this time, pending autopsy.

The six apartment building at 64 Davis Place is owned by Lloyd "Red" Wylie, Jr., who lived in one of the apartments. When reached yesterday, Wylie said he was not home that night and has no idea what caused the fire.

He said his primary goal right now is to find alternative housing for his remaining tenants. He said he is working with other area landlords and others in the community to seek temporary and/or permanent housing for his displaced tenants.

Wylie said he has a place to stay and has a lot of family in the area who have been very supportive of him.

He was not prepared to speak about his tenant who died only to say that it was a "terrible thing" and that he was a "really nice guy."

Erickson said the bulk of the fire burned the center section of the building and, while it is possible to rebuild the center, he said there is considerable fire, smoke and water damage to the rest of the building.

Wylie said that's it's just too soon to tell what will happen in the future.

The Salvation Army in Laconia will be accepting donations at their store, located at 177, Union Avenue, for the families affected by the Davis Place Multi-Unit apartment fire that occurred yesterday. Donations to the affected families must be marked as "DAVIS PLACE FIRE" and may be dropped off at the Salvation Army's Laconia location. The Salvation Army will also be providing the families with vouchers to receive items from their store.

For more information on American Red Cross New Hampshire's Community Partnerships, please contact Karen Dudley by calling (603) 438-2426.

Last Updated on Friday, 28 February 2014 01:00

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Grant in hand, Land Trust expects to break ground on riverfront apartment building by summer

LACONIA — The Laconia Area Community Land Trust has been awarded a grant of $286,108 by NeighborWorks America, a nonprofit organization chartered by Congress that finances community development.

Linda Harvey, executive director of the trust, said yesterday that she was "thrilled by the award," which she explained consists of $200,000 earmarked for capital projects while the balance is applied to operating expenses. She said that the $200,000 will be added to the financing package for the construction of Rivers Edge, the three-story apartment building to be built on the former F.W. Webb property tucked between Union Avenue and the Winnipesaukee River.

Harvey said that the trust is preparing to close on the purchase of the property as well as the $7.1 million financing package and expects to break ground in late May or early June. She described the project as one of the largest and most complex the LACLT has ever undertaken.

The 1.87-acre property describes a triangle, with 685 feet of frontage on the river — 598 feet above Avery Dam — representing its longest side and bordered on the other two sides by Arch Street and Union Avenue. However, its frontage on Arch Street is limited by a 0.34-acre lot that runs more than half the length of the street from its intersection with Union Avenue. The footbridge below the dam links the lot to the Rotary Park, Belknap Mill, One Mill Plaza and City Hall.

The building will consist of two wings, paralleling Union Avenue and Arch Street and joined in the middle to form a "V." The building will house 12 one-bedroom units, each 675-square-feet and 20 two-bedroom units of 864-square-feet. The ground level will be faced with brick and the upper levels with vinyl siding. The riverfront will be landscaped and include walkways designed to accommodate the downtown riverwalk, which the city plans to construct along both banks of the river.

Like all the projects undertaken by the LACLT, the units will be offered at affordable rents and property taxes will be paid on the apartment building.

The LACLT is one of 235 local organizations serving 4,500 communities that comprise the network of NeighborhoodWorks America.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 February 2014 12:58

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