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Heritage group believes it has few months to find private developer to move Hathaway House

LACONIA — With time running short to spare the Hathaway House from the wrecking ball, the Heritage Commission last evening decided to seek a private developer or investor willing to take ownership of the building and move it to another location in the city.
Pam Clark, who chairs the commission, explained that Greg Nolan of Cafua Management Company, the owner of the building at 106 Union Ave., has assured city officials that "the building is ours if we can move it." She said that Nolan, who now has a permit to demolish the historic mansion in hand, has granted the commission "a reasonable window of opportunity" to relocate the building, which she understands to be "three or four months."

The home was built in 1870 by Samuel C. Clark, a prominent attorney in Lakeport, then known as Lake Village.

Last month Maggie Stier of the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance and Steve Bedard of Bedard Preservation of Gilmanton estimated the cost of moving and renovating the building would fall between $563,400 and $751,200, adding "our estimate for a building of this age, type and condition would be at the higher end of that range." The estimates excluded the cost of a new lot for the building.
Stier and Bedard concluded that "in our estimation, savings this building by moving it to a new location and investing more than half a million dollars in its rehabilitation is not a viable proposition at this time."
Meanwhile, Sarah Anderson, the Gilford teenager who led the effort to reconstruct the Gilford Outing Club warming hut, was not convinced. She told the commission that after speaking with the utility companies and a building mover she pegged the cost of moving the Hathaway House to a lot at 903 Union Avenue at approximately $300,000, including the price of the lot. The half-acre lot with an assessed value of $39,100 is owned by local attorney Phil Brouillard, who has offered it to the commission for $160,000.
"He is very firm about the price," said Clark, who explained that the lot would have to be excavated and a foundation poured to accommodate the building. Brouillard assured her there would be sufficient parking for 30 vehicles. Alternatively, Anderson suggested that a buyer could float the Hathaway House across Paugus Bay and relocated on a lot at South Down Shores or Long Bay.
Anderson went on to sketch a fundraising campaign to fund the project. She said that she had already spoken with a number of prospective tenants of the Hathaway House, including one who wanted to operate a museum and library on the ground floor, who would contribute to the effort.
However, Clark asked "realistically, can we raise $300,000 in the next three months" and answered "no". She said that apart from moving and relocating the building there is the issue of ownership, noting that "the city does not want to own this building."
The alternative, Clark said, is to find a developer or investor interested not only in moving and renovating the Hathaway House but also managing and maintaining the property. She proposed asking the city attorney to enter a formal agreement with Cafua that would enable to the commission to issue a "request for proposals" (RFP) offering the Hathaway House to a private party on the understanding that they would move it, restore it, preserve it and own it.
Clark proposed issuing an RFP in May with a deadline for responses in June. "If we don't get any replies," she said, "the handwriting is on the wall. When is enough going to be enough?"
Stier and Bedard doubted that a private party would undertake the project, noting that they would be dissuaded by "the gap between rehab costs and actual or future real estate value. In our estimation," they continued, "the numbers simply don't add up. Be practical and realistic," they advised. "Recognize that not everything can be saved."


Last Updated on Thursday, 10 April 2014 12:55

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Plymouth State U. Analysis paints bleak picture of future Belknap County economy

PLYMOUTH — In the years ahead the economy of Belknap County will be marked by an aging population, shrinking workforce, dwindling investment and slackening growth according to a study by Daniel Lee, an economist at Plymouth State University.

Dr. Lee could not be reached on Tuesday to comment on his report.

In New Hampshire, where the population is aging more rapidly than in the nation, Lee notes that the population of Belknap County is aging even faster. The median age in the county in 2010 was 44.7, compared to 37.2 in the nation and 41.1 in the state. Only Carroll County and Coos County, where the median ages were 48.3 and 46.4, had older populations. Between 2000 and 2010, those aged five and younger grew just one-percent and those aged between five and 17 shrank nine-percent while those aged 45 to 64 jumped 31 percent and those 65 and older climbed 19 percent.

Without net migration into the county, Lee projects that with this pace of aging the population of working age in Belknap County — those between 20 and 64 — will have decreased 5.8 percent by 2020 and 16.3-percent by 2030. The decline would be surpassed only by Carroll County and Coos County, where he projects the working age populations to shrink by 24.4 percent and 20 percent respectively by 2030. Moreover, Lee notes that the labor participation rate — the number of residents in the workforce — in Belknap County has dropped from 72 percent in 1998 to 64 percent in 2012, compared to a decline from 72 percent to 68 percent in the state.

Lee anticipates that the county's smaller workforce will also have a relatively low level of educational attainment. Although the 32 percent of the state's population has at least a college degree, fewer than one in four residents of Belknap County have more than high school diplomas and the gap between the state and county is widening.

Along with the size and skill of the workforce, Lee counts capital investment as the third major source of long-term economic growth. He calculates that the growth of private investment has slowed in New Hampshire during the past four decades and that investment in Belknap County has lagged the pace in the state. Between 2000 and 2010 the capital stock of the state grew 30 percent, with Grafton County and Merrimack County setting the pace at 55 percent and 39 percent respectively, while it grew 26 percent in Belknap County.

From 2000 to 2010 Lee found that productivity growth fell sharply, by more than two-thirds in the state and by more than half in the county. Although productivity growth in Belknap County of 7.3 percent barely topped the state average of 7.1 percent, it was the fourth lowest rate in the state, far behind Grafton County, which led the field at 25 percent but well ahead of Rockingham County, the tailender at 1.4 percent.

These trends were reflected in slower growth of both employment and income. Belknap County was among the five counties where employment shrank between 2000-2010, though the decline of 4 percent was less than half the 9 percent drops in Coos County and Sullivan County. Meanwhile, personal income rose 16 percent during the same period, faster than the 13 percent in the state as a whole, but far off the pace of increases of 51 percent in the previous two decades.

Lee tracked shifts in the source of income growth by measuring the contribution of different industries to increases in earnings. Between 1970 and 2000 the service and manufacturing sectors drove the economy in the county, generating about a quarter and a fifth of growth in earnings respectively. Retail trade, construction and government services accounted for approximately 1 percent apiece and finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) and wholesale trade each less than 10 percent.

However, between 2001 and 2001 Lee calculates that government services, health care and social assistance together represented 57 percent of growth in earnings while professional and technical services accounted for another 11 percent. Retail and wholesale trade, along with the dining and hospitality sector, each contributed less than 10 percent. According to Lee, the contribution of the manufacturing sector dropped 31 percent to become "the largest drag during the past decade."

Lee concludes that the Belknap County has been buffeted by the same demographic forces weighing on the state. However, he notes that the county's economy has declined relative to other parts of the state "gradually but steadily over the past four decades," a trend he anticipates will continue.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 April 2014 01:23

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Mass. educator to be new principal at Belmont Elementary School

BELMONT — The Shaker Regional School District has hired Sheila Arnold to be the principal of Belmont Elementary School, replacing retiring Principal Emily Spear.

Arnold is currently the principal of Mashpee Middle School in Mashpee, Mass. She has been an elementary school principal in New Bedford, Mass as well as an assistant principal at Mashpee High School.

Superintendent Maria Dreyer said Arnold earned her undergraduate degree from Ohio University and her Masters of Education and Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies from Cambridge College (Mass.)

"I'm really excited and delighted," Dreyer said, adding Arnold is an energetic and involved educator who will contribute to success and improvement at Belmont Elementary School.

Described as a collaborative leader who has an exceptional knowledge of curriculum and leadership, Dreyer said Arnold plans on moving to the area and will be invested in the community.

Arnold will begin with Shaker Regional School District on July 1.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 April 2014 01:13

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Consensus that castle itself cannot be saved?

GILFORD — For the second time a standing room only crowd of people joined the selectmen for a discussion about the future of Kimball Castle and the 20 acres of property upon which it sits.

The Wednesday night gathering learned two new things: that an individual appraisal of the 115-year-old castle is $375,000 and that the selectmen have been working in non-public sessions with their lawyers and the Kimball Castle LLC. owner and his lawyers to come up with a way to save some artifacts and secure the property so that it doesn't pose a danger to the general public.

"As stewards we believe it is not in the town's best interests to own the property," said Selectman's Chair John O'Brien. He added that of the 80 or so letters the town has received from residents, very few have expressed a desire to use tax money on the building.

Kimball Wildlife Forest Committee Chair Sandra McGonagle said her committee's recommendation is to comply with the building inspector and either fence in the castle or tear it down, to try a purchase the land using local fund-raising and any available state and federal grants, and to preserve an easement that would allow access to the trails from the west side of the property.

"We've heard your concern about safety and vandalizing," she said to the board. "We conclude with the recommendations of the building inspector."

Selectmen said it is the owner's desire to sell the 20 acre-property as a single family residence but some in the audience, including Robert Heinrich, had objections.

He said the current owner was part of a consortium of people who worked out a "sweetheart" deal with the town in 1991 and that he was approached about joining in the early 1990s. 

When the plan to build a restaurant collapsed for lack of financing, he said the owner originally was trying to sell the castle for $2.895 million but has allowed the castle to fall into such disrepair that the building itself is virtually worthless.

Many murmured in agreement when Heinrich said the owner has a responsibility to the town to maintain it. He also said the provisions of Charlotte Kimball's will specifically said she didn't want the property used for a residence but for a wildlife preserve.

Others said they didn't support using state LCHIP (Land and Community Heritage Investment Program) money for the castle because it is so hard to get and there are better uses for it even in Gilford.

Jim Sherman said the castle isn't historic. "It's 100 years old and my neighbor calls his home a castle," he said.

Conservation Commission alternate member John Goodhue said he knows there is someone working with the owner to purchase it but the owner needs the town's help to "put the deal together."

While Goodhue didn't say how he knows this, O'Brien had said earlier there have been some behind the scenes negotiations with selectmen to facilitate some kind of solution.

Just about the only thing everyone agreed on was the castle itself was beyond repair and posed a potential liability to the town.

One man pointed out that the liability to the town grows daily because the selectmen keep extending their order to the owner to either tear it down or build a fence.

As it stands right now, the owner has until April 30 to either tear it down or build a fence around the castle.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 April 2014 01:11

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