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  • Moe Kirk photo

    Shirley Cohen is delighted as she receives the Seventeenth Annual Hollis Citizen of the Year Award from Chaplain Lou Tyska, of the Hollis VFW Post 11373 and VFW member Janet Foster.

  • Moe Kirk photo

    On behalf of the Communications Advisory Board which also includes Fire Chief Richard Towne and DPW Director Jeff Babel, Police Chief Russell Ux explains the issue with radio transmission for public service workers. The $90,000 equipment upgrade represented by Article 6 was accepted by voters.

  • Moe Kirk photo

    Attendees at the Hollis Town Meeting erupted into hearty cheers and applause following the powerful singing of the Star Spangled Banner by student Caroline Burns at the beginning of Town Meeting.
  • Moe Kirk photo

    Residents voting on Article 12, that would have rescinded the allocation of 50 percent of the land use change tax to the Conservation Fund, had their ballot card stamped and were asked to deposit either a "yes" or a "no" ticket into the voting box. This expedited the process of tallying votes since counting hands would have been challenging and time consuming.

  • Moe Kirk photo

    Hollis Brookline High School sophomore Anu Rao, 15, sings God Bless America at the start of the Annual Town Meeting on March 9.
  • Moe Kirk photo

    Hollis residents listen to Brian Regan of Silver Lake Road as he expresses his viewpoint on Article 12 regarding the land use change tax allocation. Article 12 was voted down and restricted from future reconsideration.
Friday, March 11, 2011

Funding for land conservation stays

HOLLIS – Voters in Hollis on Wednesday night denied a petitioned warrant article seeking to rescind the allocation of money the Conservation Commission receives from the Land Use Change Tax.

Numerous residents spoke out at Town Meeting against Article 12, which would have reversed a decision made at Town Meeting in 1999, allocating 50 percent of the Land Use Change Tax to the Conservation Fund. To date, the commission has received $1.3 million in tax dollars through the allocation.

Hollis Conservation Commission Chairman Tom Dufresne summed up two key issues to losing the funding. In expressing his concerns, Dufresne said the town “will lose the chance for matching grants,” which have provided an additional $345,000 to support the commission’s mission since 1998. He also said the need for a vote at Town Meeting could result in a lost land deal because of timing.

Article 12 was defeated by secret ballot with more than 250 votes against and 70 in favor and was further restricted from reconsideration.

The meeting started at 7 p.m. in the Hollis/Brookline High School gymnasium after a couple of harsh strikes of the gavel by Moderator Jim Belanger.

The silence gave way to the voices of student Caroline Burns singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and Anu Rao leading “God Bless America.” Then Chaplain Lou Tyska, of the Hollis VFW Post 11373, and VFW member Janet Foster came forward to present the 17th annual Hollis Citizen of the Year Award to Shirley Cohen.

Tyska said Cohen has devoted her talents to advocating for school renovations, championing conservation through Beaver Brook land purchases and raising funds for many causes, including the Zoo New England Scholarship for Zookeepers to honor the memory of Jonathan Gilmour. Taken by surprise, Cohen responded to the recognition by indicating “none of these things could have been done without the people in this town.”

Belanger set a goal of finishing Town Meeting by 11:45 p.m., providing nearly five hours to hear the 12 articles. Voters also learned that writing their names on their ballot cards would expedite the secret ballot process used for Articles 11 and 12 and reduce the time needed to vote. Last year, Town Meeting was continued to a second night after getting through only three articles in the first five hours.

On Wednesday night, the “ayes” had it for Articles 2 through 6 – a series of articles placing money in trust funds for compensated absences, health insurance, building maintenance, and Old Home Days and $90,000 for the upgrade of police and fire department radio equipment.

When asked by Budget Committee member Raymond Valle if Hollis has had any people put at risk because of intermittent and poor radio transmission, Police Chief Russell Ux confirmed, “Yes. Not injured, but definitely put at risk.”

Articles 8 and 9 – the $8.1 million operating budget and an article establishing town forest land – were approved in voice votes. The vote in favor of Article 6 for the radio equipment meant Article 7, which would have established a capital reserve fund for the equipment, was passed over.

Article 11, a non-binding advisory vote to understand how residents felt about the future of the Farley Building, had this result: 91 votes to demolish it; 57 votes to restore it; 47 votes to sell or lease it; 12 write-in options.

The historic landmark erected in 1877.

Voters also said they don’t want to move the annual meeting to Saturdays.

The Hollis School District Meeting will be March 14 at 7 p.m. at the middle school, and the Cooperative School District Meeting will be March 16 at 7 p.m. at the high school.