North Yarmouth candidates vie for water district seat

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NORTH YARMOUTH — Stephen Gorden, seeking a second term on the Yarmouth Water District Board of Trustees, faces a challenge next month from former Trustee Guy Watson.

This will be the second time the two North Yarmouth residents have squared off at the polls. Watson, who was elected in 2006, lost his re-election bid to Gorden in 2009.

The water district serves 3,000 customers in Yarmouth and North Yarmouth.

Stephen Gorden

Gorden, 70, is married and has five sons and two grandchildren. He has served as national vice president of corporate development for the American Water Works Service Co. in New Jersey. He was also president of American Water Resource, a subsidiary of that company, and national chairman of the Water Utility Council.

Gorden was also director and chief executive officer of the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department in Michigan, and director of operations for the Portland Water District.

He also served on the Cumberland County Charter Commission. Last November he was elected county commissioner in Cumberland County’s new District 3, which includes North Yarmouth, Brunswick, Freeport, Gray, Harpswell, New Gloucester and Pownal.

Being retired gives Gorden time to serve on both the water district and county commission, he said, noting that he has been doing both.

Water district trustees recently voted for a rate increase – 14 percent in all categories, except 8 percent in public fire protection – which must ultimately be approved by the Maine Public Utilities Commission. It followed an 11 percent rate hike last year.

Gorden defended the increase, which would go into effect in July. He said it would pay for the district’s new $2.25 million headquarters on Sligo Road in Yarmouth, which replaced a building on East Elm Street, also in Yarmouth.

The move has created more space for the water district’s operation, Gorden said. He added that refurbishing the older building would have cost almost as much as building a new one.

The Yarmouth Water District may ultimately collaborate with neighboring districts in New Gloucester and Gray to keep rates down, he noted.

Gorden said he wants to use his approximately 35 years of experience in the water utility field to the benefit of the community, and “see if there (are) any doors that I (can) open to make the utility better for the citizen, or for the ratepayer, in this case.”

If re-elected, Gorden said, one of his objectives will be ensuring the utility remains “more than viable. The utility’s getting to the age where we now have to replace some of its infrastructure. … We’ve got some pipes that were put there (more than 100 years ago), and those are starting to cause failures and we need to … make sure that gets handled in an expeditious and very efficient way so it doesn’t impact our rates any more than it has to.”

Guy Watson

Watson, 62, is married and has one daughter and three grandchildren. He is a general contractor, currently focusing on building cabinets.

Watson was harbor master for Yarmouth and Cumberland from 1999 to 2008. He also served on Yarmouth and North Yarmouth’s shellfish committee for 12 years, and on Cumberland’s shellfish commission for several years. He was also on the Cumberland Coastal Waters Commission and the Yarmouth Harbor and Waterfront Committee.

“I’m interested in doing things to benefit the town that I live in,” Watson said, explaining his several committee memberships.

“I’ve always had an interest in the safety and the welfare of the water that’s in the ground here,” he said, noting that during his term he co-founded a committee tasked with finding a new headquarters for the district.

Watson said he is “very interested” in how the district is managed, and that he would like to accomplish smart spending as a trustee.

As a public utility, he said, the water district has “to spend certain amounts of money on certain things to keep the (Public Utilities Commission) happy. … You can put some money into reserves, but you can’t make a profit, so being a prudent observer of how the money is spent … you should be able to keep the rate increases to a minimum.”

Watson said he supported the decision to move to new headquarters, but believed the cost would not be as great and that the rate increase, consequently, would not be as large.

“I certainly would have hoped for a much lesser increase,” Watson said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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Stephen Gorden

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.