VASSALBORO — Many residents are voicing frustration over skyrocketing bills after the private company that owns the town’s sewage system said it plans to more than double next year’s sewer rates.

The Vassalboro Sanitary District told residents in November that it planned to raise sewer rates by 60% in January next year, followed by 5% increases annually for the following five years in order to cover “operating expenses, maintenance expenses, and debt repayment.” Because the district is an independently-operated business separated from the town’s government in 2017, residents say no one can stop the increase but the company’s Board of Trustees.

Members of the board of trustees nor members of the town select board returned emails or phone messages in recent days seeking comment.

Scott Folsom is one of the roughly 200 people who are customers of Vassalboro’s sewage system. Folsom, as with many Vassalboro residents, says his sewage bills have risen exponentially over the last 10 years he’s lived in the town.

Five years ago, he says he paid just over $500 in annual sewer bills. That number continued to rise over time, culminating in a bill last year that he says cost $1,100. Folsom says he expects next year’s bill to be even more expensive.

“Last spring, they sent us a letter, and the letter basically stated they had this huge increase,” he said. “So I did the figuring and I came up with roughly $1,800 as far as my bill next year. That’s nearly as much as I expect to owe in taxes.”


The 60% rate increase will affect new customers as well as old ones. The cost of connecting a line to the town’s sewage system is currently $150, but the district plans to raise it to $240 next year. The cost of water will also rise from $0.14 to $0.224 per cubic foot, potentially adding even more on to residents’ bills. One cubic foot of water is equivalent to about seven and a half gallons.

Interest on overdue balances will also double from 4% this year to 8% next year. If a resident’s quarterly invoice is more than three months overdue, a lien is placed on the resident’s property.

“I mean, a lot of people don’t don’t pay too much attention to these things,” Folsom said. “But I paid a lot of attention to this because I could see that this will be really expensive for everyone living here.”

Officials have previously said that residents’ sewage bills have been rising in order to pay back about $3 million in loans taken out to finance Vassalboro’s $8 million sewer system replacement. The project was mandated in 2015 and finished in 2020 after the Maine Department of Environmental Protection said the town’s sewer system did not follow phosphorous safety guidelines.

The project completely overhauled the town’s sewage system, and required years of planning and fundraising. With the project’s completion, Vassalboro now sends its sewage into Winslow’s system, which in turn pumps it to Waterville for treatment.

The Vassalboro Sanitary District is governed by a five-person board of trustees, though one seat is currently vacant. The current members are Ray Breton, Rebecca Goodrich, Alfred Roy and Lee Trahan.


Trahan is the only board member who does not live in Vassalboro. He also serves on the Winslow Town Council and oversaw the agreement between Vassalboro, Winslow and Waterville’s Kennebec Sanitary Treatment District.

Before the sewer replacement was completed, Vassalboro operated three relatively small treatment facilities that discharged wastewater into Outlet Stream, which flows from China Lake into the Sebasticook River. The district made the choice in 2015 to connect Vassalboro’s system to Winslow’s rather than updating its aging infrastructure in order to save money.

At a Dec. 6 community meeting about the proposed rate increase, several dozen residents shared their fears that the rising sewer bills are only exacerbating the area’s high cost of living.

One resident of more than a decade, Mike Mitchell, said he expects his sewer bill next year to be more expensive than his taxes.

“When I came here 12 years ago, the sewer rates were really negligible,” he said. “With the proposed increases, my water and sewer will be more than my taxes.”

Mitchell, who helped organize and lead the meeting, said that because the Vassalboro Sanitary District is a private entity, there aren’t any laws restricting how much it can raise its rates. While customers of municipal-run water systems can file price gouging complaints through Maine’s Public Utilities Commission, Mitchell said there is no governing body to prevent the rate increase other than the Sanitary District’s Board of Trustees.

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