RSU 9 Director Rich Ruhlin, center, shares the discussion he had with the Mt. Blue Boosters with the board of directors on Tuesday, Feb. 13. Ruhlin stated the boosters were “disappointed” with the board regarding their efforts to raise money for artificial turf for Caldwell Field. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

FARMINGTON — Regional School Unit 9 Director Rich Ruhlin of Industry addressed the board at the meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 13, regarding previous discussion with the Mt. Blue High School All Sports Boosters in their efforts to fundraise money to replace the grass surface on Caldwell Field with synthetic turf, among other efforts.

Ruhlin stated that he is the official liaison for the boosters and had met with them the previous evening [Monday, Feb. 12] to discuss and share their concerns with the fundraising efforts.

“This is nothing but feedback that I sought approval from [Mt. Blue High School All Sports Boosters board of directors] to speak to all of you to provide in relation to where they stand in their efforts on behalf of RSU 9,” Ruhlin stated.

Ruhlin started his address by recognizing the boosters for the “philanthropic and altruistically generous donations” they have made to the district.

“The feedback they provide is the educational experience for any district, including RSU 9, consists of more than just the academic knowledge that is imparted,” Ruhlin relayed to the board. “It is the overall holistic experience, including competitive interscholastic varsity athletics, that provides a full experience, along with access to art, music, literature, clubs, science, tech, et cetera.”

Ruhlin continued to say the boosters were “disappointed” and are “frustrated by the lack of clarity and direction” coming from the RSU 9 board of directors as to what they should be doing moving forward. He later added that the boosters had ceased all efforts with fundraising until the board can come to a consensus on how they should proceed.


“It has led, unfortunately, to an impasse and their ability to talk to major donors without the clarity of purpose, and understanding exactly what a donation would be contributing towards,” he stated.

Ruhlin added the boosters had asked him to provide an information item to the board, asking for re-compensation for their expenditures on the project thus far, ranging from $24,800 to $25,200.

“I believe, this is now personal commentary, that we need to provide direction, clarity, and absolute steadfast decision making,” Ruhlin stated, “in what we’re going to propose to this boosters organization, to the community at large, and to the student athletes that depend on those facilities.”

The push for fundraising efforts to replace Caldwell Field with synthetic turf initially began in July of last year when Mt. Blue All-Sports Boosters President Mike Bolduc appeared before the board to ask them for their blessing to fundraise money to bring in artificial turf to help with drainage and reduce the chance of injury.

According to Bolduc, the current condition of the field only makes it available for play three months out of the year.

“It’s roped off all summer to try and preserve it and repair it for fall sports,” Bolduc stated. “We’re hoping this turf surface is going to increase opportunities for all Franklin County athletes, not just those that attend RSU 9 schools.”


The matter was revisited on Tuesday, Jan. 23, when Superintendent Christian Elkington explained to the board that a blessing was insufficient and a formal vote was needed in order to allow the boosters to begin fundraising.

The fundraiser was to include the naming rights of the athletic complex in recognition of support for the project with a contribution of at least 50% of the total project costs, which is estimated by the boosters to be roughly $800,000. Other naming rights included the score board, press box, banners and other items at varying price points.

At the meeting, several directors raised multiple concerns over potential health risks, environmental risks, and future costs of synthetic fields. Director J. Jeffrey Barnum of New Vineyard raised several questions about potential costs of replacing the synthetic turf in five to 10 years. The potential health risks, such as potential PFAS, were also mentioned.

“I think it’s important that any potential funders understand exactly what’s being used,” Barnum said. “Because if I happen to have an extra $400,000 that I want to put into a sports field, I would want to be absolutely positive that there was no downside to that field [and] that I was not going to adversely affect any human health or environmental integrity.”

No formal plans to purchase or install synthetic turf have been made by the school, and the club’s proposed plans are subject to change, according to directors and Elkington, with the motion on the table only asking the board to allow the fundraising efforts for the turf field to begin.

Matt Casavant, a director of the club, said at the meeting that they have only contacted an engineering firm for estimates on the proposed athletic complex and they had not spoken with a synthetic turf manufacturer yet. He said it is the club’s intent to raise the money for RSU 9, leaving the details of construction and installation to RSU 9 officials.

Voting in favor of fundraising were Chairperson Dorothy “Dee” Robinson of Chesterville, Vice Chairperson Gwen Doak of Wilton, Wayne Kinney, Gloria McGraw, Erb and Todd “Will” Jones, all of Farmington, Judith “Libby” Kaut of New Sharon, Carol Coles of Starks, Joshua Robbins of Vienna, and Amanda Caruso and Kyle Fletcher, both of Wilton.

Opposed were Barnum, Janice David of Farmington, Debbie Smith of Weld and Greg Kimber of Temple. Ruhlin was not present for the vote.

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