A group of residents gather Thursday night outside a Vassalboro Sanitary District board meeting to protest recent increases to their sewage bills. Dylan Tusinski/Morning Sentinel

VASSALBORO — A group of residents is asking two board members of the local sewer district to step down “effective immediately” for allegedly violating the organization’s charter amid steep increases in annual bills that has prompted some customers to take drastic measures to decrease their usage.

Residents Erika Roy and Tara Karczewski-Mitchell sent a letter Tuesday  to the Vassalboro Sanitary District requesting Lee Trahan and Rebecca Goodrich step down from the district’s five-person board of trustees.

The push to recall Trahan and Goodrich comes after the sanitary district informed its customers in November that it would be raising sewer rates, the cost of water and line charges by 60% this year, followed by 5% increases annually afterward, to pay back about $3 million in loans taken out to finance an $8 million sewer replacement project.

The steep increases in sewer bills have prompted some residents to start collecting rainwater, skipping showers and leaving toilets unflushed to save money on their bills.

The request for Trahan and Goodrich to step down came after a group of about 10 residents protested outside the sanitary district’s board meeting Thursday night. The only item on the board’s agenda for the meeting was an executive session for “consultations with the district’s legal counsel.”

Vassalboro resident Paula Smiley holds a sign Thursday during a protest outside the Vassalboro Sanitary District board meeting. Residents rallied against a planned 60% increase in sewer bills that officials say is needed to recoup the costs of an $8 million sewer project. Photo by Laura Jones

The letter from Roy and Karczewski-Mitchell claims Trahan and Goodrich are in direct violation of a section of the sanitary district’s charter establishing qualifications to be on the board.


“Mr. Trahan has been serving as a public servant in Winslow, which is a direct violation of the charter’s bylaws and Ms. Goodrich is a paid employee, which again appears to be a violation,” the letter reads. “Both of these sitting board members are being viewed as avoidable conflicts by many Vassalboro residents.”

Trahan, who has been a board member since 2006, is the only current member who does not live in Vassalboro. He has also served on the Winslow Town Council since 2020.

The letter quotes a section of the charter that “none of said trustees shall be a town official,” though the section does not specify if trustees are prohibited from holding office in Vassalboro only, or if it includes other towns.

Roy questioned Trahan’s place on the board at a community meeting about the rate increases Wednesday night, noting that Vassalboro chose in 2015 to send all of its sewage to Winslow.

The letter says Goodrich’s place on the board violates another provision in the charter prohibiting board members from being “employed for compensation or in any other capacity for the district of which he is a trustee,” though it gives trustees the ability to allow it by vote. Goodrich is the only person on the sanitary district’s payroll, serving as its treasurer in addition to being a board member.

The Vassalboro Sanitary District is an independently-operated business which fully separated from the town’s government in 2017 It is governed by a five-person board of trustees, though one seat is currently vacant. In addition to Trahan and Goodrich, Ray Breton and Alfred Roy are the other current board members.


Trahan said Thursday that he was planning to consult with legal counsel about the letter, but that he felt the vague language of the district’s charter allows him to remain on the board. He added that he was compelled to stay because the board has had an empty seat for months that no one has expressed interest in filling.

“(The charter) says you can’t be a town official, but it doesn’t say what town or anything like that,” Trahan said. “We’ve also had an open seat on the board for over a year, and we’ve been desperately trying to fill that seat … We’ve held public meetings, numerous public meetings. It was open to the public, because these are public meetings, and nobody ever showed up.”

Goodrich did not respond to requests for comment Friday and the sanitary district’s website said its office was closed that day.


Roy and Karczewski-Mitchell, the letter’s authors, have spent the last several months organizing Vassalboro residents in opposition to the sewer rate increase. The request for Trahan and Goodrich to step down came after a group of about 10 residents protested outside the district’s board meeting Thursday night.

James and Sunny Shorey were among those at the protest, saying they have each had to pick up extra shifts at their respective jobs in order to afford their rising sewer bills. They and their five children have also begun taking dire measures to use less water.


“With five kids, we really have to limit the showers and things like that,” Sunny Shorey said. “We skip showers on Sunday, and as far as flushing, sometimes we skip that too.”

“If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down,” James Shorey chimed in. “My grandmother used to laugh at it, but now it’s a real thing.”

Stephen Malloy, who owns a rental property in Vassalboro, displays his most recent sewer bill at a community meeting Wednesday. Malloy paid over $1,100 last quarter after using roughly 5,100 cubic feet of water in addition to a $240 “line fee” charged to all Vassalboro Sanitary District customers. Meanwhile, Malloy says he paid about $160 to use about 4,300 cubic feet of water between his two properties in nearby Waterville. Dylan Tusinski/Morning Sentinel

Another resident, who gave his name only as Paul, said he was attending Thursday’s protest on behalf of many of his elderly neighbors who couldn’t brave the 20-degree temperature in Vassalboro. Some of those neighbors, he said, have also cut back on water usage through desperate means.

“We have a neighbor down the street that collects rainwater and she brings it in to flush her toilet,” he said. “She won’t flush her toilet at all until the end of the day, and then she brings in a bucket of water and flushes.”

Many residents shared similar stories of high bills and drastic measures at a Vassalboro community meeting organized by Roy and Karczewski-Mitchell Wednesday night.



Stephen Malloy owns a four-unit apartment building in Vassalboro, and a pair of three-unit buildings in nearby Waterville. Between his buildings in Waterville, he paid about $160 for roughly 4,300 cubic feet of water.

In Vassalboro, Malloy paid more than $1,100 for about 5,100 cubic feet of water in addition to a $240 “line charge” billed to every VSD customer. One cubic foot of water is equivalent to about seven and a half gallons.

James Shorey, a longtime Vassalboro resident, displays a sign Thursday during a protest outside the Vassalboro Sanitary District’s board meeting at 275 Cemetery St. Shorey says that he and his wife have had to pick up extra shifts at work to afford their rising sewer bills, while they and their five children have had to skip showers and leave toilets unflushed to reduce their water use. Photo by Laura Jones

“How do you justify that difference?” Malloy said. “I could see a few hundred bucks, but this is ridiculous. All that money just for the pleasure of doing business, I guess.”

Trahan said Thursday that the increases were prompted by debt repayments after the town’s sewer replacement project and fees from the town of Winslow, where Vassalboro now pumps all of its sewage.

“Winslow raised their rates 25%, so we had that to deal with, and then in just the last year, we finished up our major project of pulling everything to Winslow,” he said. “We came to the determination that a 60% increase is what we needed, and even at 60% we’re still not gonna break even. We’re still gonna have a deficit. That’s why we put in there that we had to increase an additional 5% every year afterwards, until we get to a total of 80%.”

“I think the loans are for 20 to 30 years, so I probably won’t be around by then,” he added.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: