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Deeply human moments mark Lincoln meeting

LINCOLN — Not quite 30 minutes into Lincoln’s annual town meeting Monday night, Rev. Justin Cox strode up the middle aisle of Burnham Hall and, though he’s by now quite used to projecting his voice across great spaces, graciously accepted the microphone.
“I’m the new minister over at United Church of Lincoln,” he said by way of introduction, then added that this was his first town meeting. “Everything I know about New England town meetings I know from ‘Gilmore Girls’ on TV, so bear with me,” he said.
Continuing the town meeting tradition of his predecessor, David Wood, who served UCOL for 38 years, Cox spoke briefly about the previous year’s births, marriages and deaths.
There were a lot of names in the Lincoln Annual Report that he didn’t recognize, he said.
“But it’s still one of those beautiful things as we’re in the midst of winter that we are reminded that life is happening all around us,” he said. “We see these births of all these children that get to grow up in this community … where they get to wake up every day and see the mountain and hear the river. I think that’s pretty powerful.”
Cox spoke, too, of those who passed away last year — and his gratitude for having met some of them.
“That’s a really huge thing for a community — for us to really know our neighbors and to be there for each other,” he said. “Hopefully in the future you’ll be able to tell me stories about (those who have passed away) so that I’ll be able to add them to my own narrative.”
Then, after a moment of silence, Lincoln residents launched into their business.
Without too much ado, they approved three articles totaling more than $1.6 million in municipal spending.
Afterward, townspeople considered whether or not Lincoln should grant a tax exemption to the Lincoln Volunteer Fire Company.
A chorus of “ayes” signaled approval, but then were followed by a lone, distant, vaguely glum-sounding “nay.”
At their table in the front of the hall, members of the Lincoln selectboard covered their microphones with their hands and tried to suppress their laughter. Moderator Will Sipsey (also a selectboard member) didn’t notice any of this, probably because he was standing up on the stage behind them.
Sipsey tried to move on to the next article, but was interrupted.
“Mr. Moderator, I just need to clarify,” said selectboard member Paul Forlenza. “I did not mean to vote ‘nay.’”
Burnham Hall filled with laughter.
When it died down, Town Clerk Sally Ober leaned toward her microphone.
“I didn’t write it down, don’t worry,” she said.
Moderator Sipsey was handicapped by laughter until about halfway through the reading of the following article, but he soon got back on track and the meeting proceeded.
For the next hour and 13 minutes, Lincoln residents discussed whether the town should purchase a seven-acre parcel of land for a municipal sand pit. After that, most people seemed satisfied with the topic, but many of them also seemed to have had enough. Less than half of the 113 people who started the meeting stuck around for the recess or the second half.
Those who left early ended up missing one of the best parts of the meeting — the moment during recess when Lincoln Community School Principal Tory Riley gave an impromptu school report.
Riley spoke eloquently and passionately about the connections between school and community, and lamented the ways that educational funding structures created superficial distinctions between the two. Unfortunately, direct quotation is not possible because the dunderheaded Addison Independent reporter did not have his voice recorder on at the time.
After the recess, the 40 or 50 remaining approved 10 articles of in- and out-of-town voted appropriations totaling more than $140,000.
Voter hind parts, as the meeting approached the four-hour mark, were saved from going completely numb by seat cushions that had been generously provided by Maple Landmark.
The following day meeting-goers and their neighbors went to the town office on Tuesday to vote for town officials, decide school district business, choose presidential primary candidates, and approve the land purchase—which they did, in convincing fashion.
Reach Christopher Ross at christopherr@addisonindependent.com.

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