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May 26. 2014 8:17PM

Claremont free to sell community center building


A probate judge says Claremont can sell old Goodwin Community Center. (MEGHAN PIERCE/Union Leader Correspondent)

CLAREMONT — With a decision from the probate court in hand, city officials can now move forward with plans to sell the defunct Goodwin Community Center on Broad Street.

The city currently has no use for the center complex, which includes structures built in the 1800s, 1950s and 1970s, with an indoor pool built in the 1950s and a 50-person function hall.

The first order of business is to seek an independent appraisal of the market value of the buildings and property, City Manager Guy Santagate said Friday.

Santagate said he is happy the city was released from the trust binding the city to use the property and buildings for recreation.

“It’s outlived its goals and usefulness,” he said of the now-unoccupied community center on Broad Street.

The Claremont Savings Bank Community Center opened last year.

The Goodwin Community Center order was handed down by Probate Judge Elizabeth M. Leonard of the 5th Circuit Court Probate Division in Newport on May 16.

During the 1920s through 1940s, E. Charles and Mary A. Goodwin were prominent philanthropists in Claremont, according to the order.

In 1943, Mrs. Goodwin gave the property and building to the city as well as $25,000 — on the condition the city establish and maintain a recreational center for residents known as the E. Charles Goodwin Recreational & Community Center.

By 1976, all funds available from the gift and other bequests had been exhausted. In 2001, the main building was closed due to safety code violations. The city determined it would cost millions to renovate the building to conform with building codes, and so it moved forward with plans to build a new community center.

However, bound by the trust Mrs. Goodwin created, the city could not sell the Goodwin Community Center property or its buildings, while also being unable to use the property and building for uses other than recreational.

“Based upon the offers of proof made by the city, the court agrees that the use of the Goodwin Community Center for recreational purposes has become “... impracticable ... obsolete, ineffective or prejudicial to the public interest to achieve,’” Leonard wrote in the court order.

The director of the charitable trust has the right to request a further hearing before the county relating to any aspect of the marketing and sale of the property, Leonard wrote.

She also ordered the city to establish a trust to be named the E. Charles Goodwin Recreational & Community Fund for the purpose of maintaining and improving the city’s recreational facilities, and programs and activities that benefit Claremont residents.

The proceeds from the sale of the property on Broad Street will go into the new trust, Santagate said.

mpierce@newstote.com


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