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Kimball Castle forum postponed to April 9 to give group time to explore purchase

GILFORD — Selectmen have postponed a public forum for townspeople to discuss the future of Kimball Castle until April 9 in order to give the the Kimball Wildlife Forest Committee time to work with New Hampshire Preservation Alliance to see if the property can be purchased using state and federal preservation money.

The public forum about the future of the controversial castle and the 20 acres surrounding it was scheduled for next week.

According to the Kimball Wildlife Forest Committee Chair Sandra McGonagle, the idea is to purchase the property from the current owner — David Jodin doing business as Kimball Castle Properties LLC — using preservation money and private donations.

McGonagle said they Wildlife Forestry Committee has obtained the services of a private appraiser with the goal of setting an independent price for the property and getting the current owner to agree to sell it to the committee for that price.

In March of 2013, the town's building inspector determined the structure was unsafe and ordered the owner to either put a fence up or demolish it. The owner wants to demolish the castle and sell the property for use as a single family residence.

The selectmen, acting in their capacity as trustees of the Kimball Wildlife Trust, voted unanimously to allow the owner to have the private structure removed.

Should the sale effort be successful, McGonagle said the hope would be to incorporate some of the 20 acres back into the 280 acres already managed by the Wildlife Forestry Committee and put a fence around the castle to stop people from entering the immediate area.

She said the castle would be allowed to decay naturally.

McGonagle said she appreciates the position the selectmen are in regarding the town's potential liability should anyone be hurt in or at the castle. She also said she fully appreciates the owner's desire to sell the property.

She added that she also thinks it is financially unrealistic to expect to restore the castle.

Kimball Castle, said McGonagle, has been placed on the "seven to save" list in New Hampshire and in 1982 the castle was given a spot on the National Register.

She said she is hopeful that the combination of the two designations is enough to earn them a preservation grant in the event the owner elects to sell it at the independently appraised price.

Kimball Castle was built on Lockes Hill in 1895 by Concord and Montreal Railroad President Benjamin Ames Kimball.

Last Updated on Saturday, 22 February 2014 01:45

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2 first-time politicians seeking to succeed Lavin on Gilmanton Selectboard

GILMANTON — While both of the candidates who want to be the town's new selectmen are long-time residents, this is the first time either of them has tossed his name into the political arena.

Ralph Lavin's  term on the board ends next month and he is not seeking re-election.

James Barnes has a 40-year career in propane sales who is also a musician who describes himself as "New Hampshire-flavored". He writes and records his own CDs.

He said he is running because some people in town have asked him to run.

He said he thinks the town is going in the right direction and is "delighted" that his property tax bill was lower this year, but is concerned over the polarizing of the town over issued like the Gilmanton Year-Round Library and the Fire Department.

"Because it is a small town these issues can be resolved," he said.

He described the library as an "incredibly emotional" issue but one that can be solved. When asked what his plan was, Barnes said he would explain it at the candidates forum scheduled for March 6.

"All I'll say is that we need to proceed with a certain amount of caution," he said, noting that the town needs to come up with some kind of solution that in long term because the year-to-year divisiveness is unnecessarily driving a wedge between people in a community that everyone wants to see prosper.

"My agenda is I'm pro Gilmanton," he said, saying he wants to make a great town just a little bit better through "reasoned debate" and "good listening".

Opponent Stephen McCormack spent 21-years in the U.S. Military, first in the Marine Corps and then as an Army Officer. He retired with rank of major.

As a recently retired state employee, McCormack also was a senior representative for the N.H. State Employees Union.

He said he feels some of the town's employee feel devalued and that in general the current selectmen are listening to what the town and its employees want.

"Your town is only as good as the employees who work for it," he said.

One of his goals is to form a labor-management committee in town to talk through some of the departmental issues that he feels may not be handling as effectively as possible.

He also wants to get to know the people who work in the town on an individual basis so he can better understand their jobs and the support they need from the selectmen to do them.

McCormack said is is committee to "open and transparent" government, noting that this board of selectmen seems to have a lot of non-public meetings.

"Town government should be open and responsive," he said.

McCormack's other goal is to encourage a review of some zoning regulation that could enable some high-tech manufacturing to relocate in Gilmanton.

He said he has met with the Gilmanton Firefighters Association and believes the department should stay the same size that it is now.

As to the Year-Round Library, he said he is "kind of neutral" and has some concerns about some of the information distributed at the annual deliberative session.

McCormack and Barnes will both be at the candidates forum on March 6 at the Gilmanton School that begins a 6 p.m.

Last Updated on Saturday, 22 February 2014 01:41

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Alton Republican considering run for governor

ALTON — Walter Havenstein, who retired from the United States Marine Corps with the rank of colonel and served as an executive with several major defense contractors, confirmed this week that he is "seriously considering" becoming a Republican candidate for governor.

Havenstein is an active member of the Alton-Barnstead-Gilmanton Republican Committee and with his wife Judy is well known for hosting fundraising events and contributing to candidates. Last week, the New Hampshire Sunday News reported that he has been encouraged to run and quoted one unidentified "senior GOP strategist" who called him "the strongest potential candidate considering the race."

So far Andrew Hemingway of Bristol, a 31 year-old, self-described entrepreneur who chaired the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire, is the lone announced GOP candidate for governor.

Democratic incumbent Governor Maggie Hassan of Exeter is expected to seek re-election.

A graduate of the United States Naval Academy with a degree in aerospace engineering, Havenstein served in the Marine Corps from 1971 to 1983, specializing in tactical communications and systems acquisition management, and completed his service in the reserve in 1999.

Havenstein began his career in the private sector the aerospace and communications division of ITT Corporation and later held a handful of executive positions with the Raythen Company. In 1999 he joined Sanders Associates of Nashua, then a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Aerospace Electronic Systems, serving as president of the firm, which when it was acquired by BAE Systems a year later.

At BAE Systems, Havenstein was president of two operating groups between 2000 and 2003 when he became executive vice-president of BAE Systems North America. When the company reorganized in 2005 he became president of the Electronics & Integrated Solutions Operating Group within what became BAE Systems, Inc. Two years later Havenstein was named president and CEO of BAE Systems, Inc,, which employs more than 50,000 people and posts annual sales of more than $20 billion.

In 2009 Havenstein left BAE Systems, Inc. for Science Applications International Corporation, a contractor for government services and information technology, where he served as president and CEO until 2012 when he retired for personal reasons.

Havenstein serves on the bard of the Whittemore School of Busienss at the University of New Hampshire and is the vice-chairman of FIRST (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology), the non-profit organization founded by Dean Kamen, the inventor and entrepreneur, to foster interest in scientific and technical careers among young people.

Word of Havenstein's interest in the race of governor drew a prompt response from the right. Writing for Granitegrok, Steve MacDonald noted that Havenstein contributed $1,000 to Christopher Boothby's recent campaign for the Executive Council, which "establishes Havenstein's credentials as an inside the NH-GOP moderate, also known in NH-GOP insider-circles as 'the good candidate.'"

MacDonald went on to point to the GOP's "old-rich-big-business-crony-insider-white-guy image problem" that weakens its appeal to young voters. But, when Hemingway, "a young sharp, tech-entrepreur, announced his candidacy, he wrote that "the 'insiders' respond by courting a retired older-rich-big-big business-crony-GOP insider-white-guy; an establishment one-percenter."

"Exactly who would Walter Havenstein represent?" MacDonald asked. "I am going to have to go with the . . . government-first wing of the GOP for the time being."

Last Updated on Saturday, 22 February 2014 01:36

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Plan to reconfigure part of Veterans Square on City Council agenda on Monday

LACONIA — Planning Director Shanna Saunders will present a plan to reconfigure the west end of Veteran's Square to the City Council when it meets Monday night.

The plan evolved from a plan to open Beacon Street East and Beacon Street West to two-way traffic and improve the intersections around the loop prepared by TEC, Inc. of Lawrence, Massachusetts, which the council soundly rejected. When the First Congregational Church of Laconia embarked on a capital improvement project the opportunity arose to revisit the reconfiguration of the intersection where Veteran's Square joins Pleasant Street.

As proposed the plan would convert the intersection of Pleasant with Veteran's Square and Beacon Street West into a simple four-way junction by eliminating the circle that enables west bound traffic through Veteran's Square to reverse direction by rounding. In place of the circle, the curb in front of the First Congregational Church would relocated between 60 feet and 40 feet forward into Veteran's Square but there would still be three lanes — two west bound and one east bound.

The five angled parking spaces in front of the First Congregational Church would be relocated at the new curb. The driveway between the First Congregational Church and the Evangelical Baptist Church, which is being converted to the restaurant, would be expanded to a handicap-access turnaround and four angled parking spaces in front of the Evangelical Baptist Church would be retained. Likewise, the six parking spaces on the north side of Veteran's Square, alongside the railroad station, would remain.

The pavement and sidewalk would be removed from the area between the new and existing curb and sidewalk, which would become a landscaped sublawn, bordered by the relocated curb on Veteran's Square and an extended curb on Pleasant Street. The memorial and flagpole would be relocated from the circle to the sublawn, to which benches would be added.

Other than the change to the flow of traffic through Veteran's Square the traffic pattern would remain the same. Traffic entering Veteran's Square from Pleasant Street could turn right on to Beacon Street West, which would remain one-way, left into Veteran's Square or proceed down Pleasant Street, which would also remain one-way. The plan does not include traffic signals at the reconfigured intersection.

Saunders has been discussing the plan with property owners and business operators in and around Veteran's Square for several months.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 March 2014 08:26

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