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  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS

    The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance has named the Farley Building in Hollis as one of “Seven to Save.” According to the preservation group, the building has been vacant since 2005, but despite some leaks, it’s in solid condition.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS

    Facebook - Grant Morris of the Nashua Telegraph

    The NH Preservation Alliance has named the Farley Building in Hollis one of this year's Seven to Save. According to the preservation groups release, the building has been vacant since 2005 but, despite some leaks, is in very solid condition.
Friday, March 16, 2012

Hollis voters approve $50K for Farley Building, union contract

HOLLIS – The aging Farley Building got support from voters at Town Meeting on Wednesday, with the approval of $50,000 to help stabilize the building and pursue grants for future restoration.

Voters also approved a new union contract, as well as a 2012 town budget of $8,991,331, which represented no increases in overall spending from 2011.

Article 13 was the most debated of all the evening’s warrant article. In its original form, the article would have provided $200,000 to support the building, which was shuttered in 2005 after having served as a school for 127 years.

That would have given the town as much as 20 years to find funding and initiate renovations, using moth-balling procedures to stabilize, secure and safeguard the building.

David Sullivan of the Heritage Commission proposed an alternate plan that would be less encompassing, costing only $50,000 and giving the town approximately five years to seek grants, plan and fund the restoration before it would have to be addressed again.

An overwhelming majority of voters approved amending the amount to $50,000, which was followed by a secret ballot to approve the funding. It was approved by a vote of 120 to 78, despite the disapproval of the Board of Selectmen and the budget committee.

When Jim Belanger, the meeting’s moderator, announced the tally, supporters clapped in approval.

The Farley House was built with $10,000 that Hollis resident Mary Farley left in her will. Farley, who died in 1875, stipulated that the money be used to build a high school within two years of her death. Local historians point out that at the time, the School District was made up of 14 grammar schools, and officials believed that consolidation would save taxpayers money.

Sullivan had said that based on advice from preservation experts, it would cost between $35,000 and $45,000 to stabilize the building, and another $10,000 to pursue grants and develop a plan to bring the structure back.

Voters passed a union contract with town employees, providing for cost of living and performance based raises. The contract includes traditional insurance coverage through Blue Cross and Blue Shield, insurance payment caps and a one-time payment of $100,000 to the union in lieu of lifetime retirement health benefits and self insurance.

While approval added $240,520 to the budget over the next three years both sides considered it beneficial because the potential cost to the town for lifetime health benefits could become a burden in the near future.

“It was important to address this now,” La Doux said.

Under the budget approved Wednesday, the town portion of the property taxes will be $7.23 per $1,000 in value, prior to any revenues from permitting and registrations fees the town collects. Based on the equalized home value of $435,000 for the average Hollis home, the town portion of the taxes prior to revenues would be $3,143.49. This number does not include the school portion of the budget.

Articles 6 and 7 passed, providing for the purchase of a new pick up truck for the department of public works to the tune of $30,000 and a capital lease of a $150,000 heavy duty truck to replace a failing plow truck.

Also passed was allowing the town to hold Old Home Day funds raised by donations in a special fund and authorizing the appropriation of $20,000 to shore up the Compensated Absences Payable Expendable Trust Fund, which pays out for unused sick, personal and vacation days to employees leaving town service.

A proposal to accept $237,464 from NHDOT Bridge Aid reimbursement and reapply it to the current road budget easily passed. The money is needed as road conditions in Hollis are deteriorating with flat funding over the last few years leaving much maintenance undone, selectmen explained.

Article 12, which would have obligated the town to provide $10,000 to fund the Old Homes Day fireworks display, failed to pass.

Unbeknownst to most of the meetings attendees the police representatives had slipped out part way through the evening to deal with a standoff situation in Monument Square.

As residents exited the high school parking lot, officers from Hollis, Brookline and Nashua diverted traffic away from the center of town.