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Community Center Grand Opening 9/20

Community Center to open in Troy

By Meghan Foley Sentinel Staff
Posted: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 12:00 pm

TROY — Excitement is brewing here as town officials and residents prepare for a celebration that is as much about perseverance and spirit as it is a new community center and remodeled recreation area.

During the past five or so years, as the town of 2,145 has struggled to make ends meet in a post-recession and Troy Mills world, efforts have been underway to revitalize a piece of the community’s past, so that it will stand long into the future.

The piece, the Samuel E. Paul War Memorial Recreation Area, also known as Sand Dam, has for decades been where local children learned to swim, and partook in summer recreation programs.

Originally called the Troy Living War Memorial, it was named after Paul in the early 2000s. Paul was a doctor who practiced locally and chairman of the town’s first memorial recreation committee.

And it’s Paul’s son Peter’s generosity that is the primary reason for the celebration set to take place Saturday.

Beginning at 2:30 p.m, the results of that revitalization work will be displayed, with the dedication of the Samuel E. Paul Community Center at 61 South St. People will also have an opportunity to view the recreation area’s recently renovated grounds.

“This is going to be an asset to the whole town,” Valerie H. Britton, who has been involved with the project, said Monday.

Town officials and residents have known for years that the recreation area was in need of improvements and upgrades, and in March 2010, town meeting voters approved the formation of a three-year commission to decide how the site should be maintained and funded.

The commission then worked with Keene State College students and faculty to come up with a plan to restore the area that included renovating the basketball court, skate park and baseball field. A community center was added to the plan last year.

The single-story community center will include a large main room that can be divided into two smaller spaces with a partition, a commercial kitchen, bathrooms and a basement for storage.

Already, it’s being eyed as a place for local groups such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to hold their meetings, and the senior citizens to host their Saturday breakfasts, Britton said. The idea of having voting and town meetings there has also been discussed, she said.

“Everybody is very excited about this, and there are a lot of ideas out there,” she said.

The project is expected to cost roughly $350,000. Of that amount, the town is paying $56,000 with $10,000 coming from the youth center expendable trust fund, and $46,000 made possible by the Samuel E. Paul War Memorial Expendable Trust Fund, town officials have said.

Peter Paul, a businessman and philanthropist, is picking up the rest of the tab.

Paul grew up in Troy, and now lives in California.

His gifts over the years have included a $25 million donation to the University of New Hampshire for a new business school on its Durham campus. The Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics opened in April 2013. Paul graduate from the university in 1967.

Before the Troy community center project, Paul had made other donations to the recreation area, including a sign after the town acquired it from Troy Mills when the company stopped operating, a pavilion and funds so the town could test the water when concerns about contamination arose. The water tests came back negative of any pollutants.

Seeing that the town had saved up some money for the community center, and had a plan to maintain it, but just didn’t have enough funds for the project, he wanted to help, Paul said.

With town officials moving forward with installing sidewalks on South Street and paving the road, things fell into place.

Paul made his offer, and in March, voters at town meeting agreed to accept his donation.

“Troy deserve this, and I’m happy to help,” he said.

He said he is excited about the energy that has come in the wake of his donation. He added that he wants to make sure the building is done right, even if that means his gift is a bit more than the original $179,000 estimate.

Some of the work has also been done in-kind, he said.

Paul will be the keynote speaker at Saturday’s dedication ceremony.

He made his wealth in the mortgage industry during the 1980s. He is chief executive officer of an investment firm he founded in 2008, Headlands Asset Management LLC. He also owns West Biofuels, a research and development company, and Peter Paul Wines.

On the philanthropic side, Paul founded two nonprofit organizations, the Headlands Foundation in 1995 and the Peter T. Paul Foundation in 2008.

At the same time as the community center was being built this summer, the Troy Highway Department dove into remodeling and moving around the outdoor sports facilities at the recreation area.

That project has involved moving the basketball court to a different place on the site, and putting the skate park where the basketball court was. The old snack shack, which was built in 1957, has been torn down. The changes have created a grassy area, which will be made into an outdoor skating rink in the winter, Britton said.

While the community center will be ready to show off to people Saturday, it isn’t 100 percent done yet, Paul said.

However, he expects the building will be open for use soon after, and that it will be used well by members of the community.