Letter to the Editor: Mt. Blue/Foster Tech Learning Campus a must-have for Franklin County

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We have a tremendous opportunity in front of us. A referendum for the Mt. Blue and Foster Technology Learning Campus is slated for the ballot on September 15 and it couldn’t come at a better time. It is important that we all support this project because the learning campus will be a great addition to the Mt. Blue Regional School District and to all of greater Franklin County. The new learning campus will be a huge asset to the area, both in attracting families and professionals, and attracting new business investments. As the director of the Greater Franklin Development Corporation, I know how important it is to bring new jobs into the greater Franklin County area and I believe that the Mt. Blue / Foster Tech Learning Campus is going to make that task much easier.

In 2004, SAD 9 applied for state funding to renovate Mt. Blue High School and the Foster Technology Center. Project approval means that the state agrees to pay for approximately 95% of the cost of the $64.2 million project. The school district will raise 1%, approximately $683 thousand, through grants, gifts, and fundraising. Voting in favor of the referendum allows Mt. Blue Regional School District to accept about $60 million in state funding.

For a project so comprehensive and impressive, there is no reason not to welcome it eagerly. Locals will end up paying about $3.5 million for the whole project, which includes new classroom space, on-site alternative energy sources, more parking, and more athletic fields. Spaces to train for public safety, firefighting, and law enforcement are included.

Innovative business incubators will allow for start-up businesses to access state of the art equipment, which they cannot yet afford, while giving them the added support of a student body eager for hands-on-training and experience in fields they may hope to work in as adults. Once these businesses are able to stand on their own, they leave the incubator in search of their own success, leaving the space ready for a new start-up. There is no better way to integrate the school with the surrounding towns, or to allow the school to give back to the communities that supported its creation.

The $64.2 million project will stimulate the area through approximately 300 construction jobs and the purchasing of building materials over a three-year period. Other benefits that will be realized by our communities will be the use of local contractors wherever possible, followed by the contractors’ spending on food, lodging, fuel, and other construction related services. Once it is completed, the Mt. Blue / Foster Tech Learning Campus will join the University of Maine at Farmington and the Franklin Community Health Network as one of the outstanding assets enjoyed by Franklin County.

Young families will be drawn to the area by the opportunities offered to their children. Businesses are going to be attracted by a new, state-of-the-art school complex and by the influx of young, employable workers. Students graduating from Mt. Blue/Foster Tech will be more ready than their predecessors either to enter the Franklin County workforce or to begin a college career in the same town where they excelled in high school.

The renovations planned for Mt. Blue/Foster Tech are remarkable. They will change the face of the school district and of the greater community. Franklin County is being offered the chance of a lifetime, because without state funding, this project would be impossible. We are being asked to contribute very little towards the total cost of these renovations. Five percent is almost nothing, especially considering what a state-of-the-art learning center will do for our economy and our community.

Support for this project is vital. On September 15, we can come together for the good of the community by voting in favor of the Mt. Blue Regional School District referendum to accept plans for the renovation of Mt. Blue High School / Foster Technology Learning Campus.

Alison Hagerstrom

Alison Hagerstrom is the executive director of the Greater Franklin Development Corporation in Farmington, Maine.

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