VASSALBORO — Sewer bills will rise again for many Vassalboro residents after the private company that owns the town’s sewer system has voted to raise its sewer rates.

Stephen Malloy, who owns a rental property in Vassalboro, is among the property owners whose sewer bills have skyrocketed after the recent sanitary system upgrade. At a community meeting earlier this year, above, Malloy showed he paid more than $1,100 in the previous quarter. Dylan Tusinski/Morning Sentinel file

The Vassalboro Sanitary District’s board voted Thursday to raise rates effective in the fall, meaning the cost of water, sewage and line connection will all rise by nearly 50% for customers.

The increase comes after the district initially told residents last November that it planned to more than double its sewer rates in part to pay back about $3 million in loans taken out to finance Vassalboro’s $8 million sewer system replacement. Word of those increases was met with sharp backlash from many residents who said they would be paying more in sewer bills than property tax bills. This past spring, officials said the number of district customers who are past due on their sewer bills is growing, with some 70 overdue and 30 with outstanding liens against their property as a result.

The Vassalboro Sanitary District is a quasi-municipal company initially founded in 1970 as a department of Vassalboro’s town government, but became an independently operated private business in 2017. Of Vassalboro’s population of roughly 4,000 people, only about 200 are hooked to the Sanitary District’s sewer line.

Board members said at Thursday’s meeting they didn’t want to raise the rates, but that they have no other choice as the district continues repaying the $8 million sewer replacement project and moves to replace both its sewage pumps and manhole covers.

The cost of water will now rise about 20%, to 17 cents per cubic foot, while the quarterly line charge will increase from $150 to $195. The building drainage fee will double to $50, while the “ready to serve” fee will rise to $75.


The rate increases are planned to take effect in October.

Board members approved the increase in a 3-1 vote, with Ray Breton, Rebecca Goodrich and Alfred Roy voting in favor of the increase while Lisa Miller, who was appointed last month, voted against it. The board’s fifth member, Lee Trahan, was not present.

The increase differs slightly from what the sanitary district told customers it would charge last month, as Miller made a motion to raise the “ready to serve” fee to $75 rather than $100, saying she felt the additional charge was unnecessary.

“I think one of the issues for me is that the ready to serve (fee) doubled,” Miller said. “I would like to see, or am proposing, to not double the ready to serve (fee) because that line is just there.”

The fee is billed quarterly to about 30 of the district’s 200 customers, and has doubled in the last four years. The district projects it will double again in the next four years.

Meanwhile, Vassalboro’s Select Board voted last week to allocate up to $200,000 of Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, funding to the sanitary district to help alleviate some of residents’ sewer costs. At least $124,000 of that money will go to paying off debt from connecting Vassalboro’s sewer system to nearby Winslow’s, officials say.


Questions had previously lingered about the legality of directing municipal money to a private company like the Vassalboro Sanitary District, but Town Manager Aaron Miller said at a June 13 Select Board meeting that legal counsel found the town could direct funds to the district.

“I had the town attorney weigh in, and I asked if this would meet the town’s ordinance,” Miller said at the meeting. “She did confirm that yes, absolutely, it would.”

Sanitary officials have previously said they were counting on funding from the town to reduce costs for customers as the district continues paying off a 2015 infrastructure project that replaced Vassalboro’s entire sewer system. The project was mandated by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, which said the system dumped unsafe levels of waste into the Outlet Stream in town and violated phosphorous safety guidelines.

Rather than discharging its sewage into the Outlet Stream, the new sewer system now sends sewage into Winslow, which in turn pumps it to Waterville for treatment.

Vassalboro must pay a fee to use Winslow’s sewage system. Winslow officials raised the cost of that fee this year, which sanitary district board members have cited as a major driver of rising sewer rates.

Trahan, who has been on the district’s board since 2006, oversaw the agreement between Vassalboro, Winslow and Waterville’s Kennebec Sanitary Treatment District. He is the only member who is not a Vassalboro resident and also serves on the Winslow Town Council.

Related Headlines

Join the Conversation

Please sign into your account to participate in conversations below. If you do not have an account, you can register or subscribe. Questions? Please see our FAQs.

filed under: