Yarmouth Water District race attracts 4 candidates

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YARMOUTH — Four candidates are competing for two seats on the Water District Board of Trustees in the June 14 election.

Incumbent Irving Felker Jr. will face challengers Andrew O’Brien, Bill Stees and Susan B. Krauss for the seats on the five-member board. Board member Charles Sawyer is not seeking re-election.

The Water District, at 118 East Elm St., is slated to move to Sligo Road. A new Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified building is under construction and the Historical Society is planning to move into the existing water district facility.

Four members on the board represent Yarmouth and one represents North Yarmouth.

Irving Felker Jr.

Felker, 68, lives on Hillcrest Avenue and has been married to his wife Donna for nearly 47 years. He has three grown children and three grandchildren.

Born in Westbrook and raised in Casco, Felker moved to Yarmouth 46 years ago. He has served on the board for 20 years.

Felker graduated from the University of Southern Maine with a bachelor’s degree in 1967 and a master’s degree in education in 1972. He taught middle school for 27 years and worked for the J.J. Nissen bakery for 22 years. He retired in 2008.

Felker said as a quasi-municipal agency, the water district produces a great product for a reasonable price. He has been a member of the board since 1990 and as a ratepayer himself, said he is an advocate for the customer.

“I am here to see that this quality service and product continues,” he said.

Felker helped start Yarmouth Rescue in 1970 and served as an emergency medical technician for 16 years. He is the president of the Cousin’s Island Cemetery Association, active in the Yarmouth Community Food Pantry, coached cross country and track at the high school and served as the assistant couch of an instructional baseball team. He works as a producer for Yarmouth Public Television, is a member of the Herbie Tree Project and is a co-chairman of the First Parish Congregational Church stewardship committee.

Felker said he is excited about the move to Sligo Road and said the new space will be a nice improvement. 

“If you are satisfied with getting an excellent product at a reasonable price, I’m the guy to vote for,” he said. “If you are not satisfied, vote for someone else.”

Susan B. Krauss

Krauss, 68, lives on East Main Street and has been a resident of Yarmouth for 32 years. Her late husband was a member of the board for about 11 years and she has two grown children.

She attended board meetings with her husband and said she is familiar with the the way the organization runs.

Krauss is an eighth- grade social studies teacher at Falmouth Middle School and previously worked at the former E.C. Jordan engineering company. She received her bachelor’s degree in economics from George Washington University and a master’s degree in resource economics with a specialty in water from Colorado State University.

She served on the Comprehensive Plan Committee, the Harbor Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals. She was in the Peace Corps in Peru and worked at the London Stock Exchange as an investment analyst.

“(Water) is the most vital thing, and we take it for granted,” Krauss said. “We have to be concerned about the safety of our water, the supply of our water and the cost.”

She said she is familiar with the board, is passionate about water and the timing is right. She said she does not have a strong opinion either way about the agency’s move to Sligo Road.

“I’m not political, but I know the town fairly well,” she said. “I’ll keep up on what’s going on and think water is very important.” 

Andy O’Brien

O’Brien, 40, of West Main Street, has lived in Yarmouth since 1994. He was born in Falmouth and worked as a system operator at the Portland Water District for six years and the Yarmouth Water District for nine years.

He is currently employed at the Yarmouth waste water treatment plant as a system operator.

O’Brien, who is not married, said he is interested in a seat on the board because he is familiar with the way the system operates.

“I am familiar with the staff, the superintendent and I know how things work,” he said. “We have a great water system and I want to see things continue in this way.”

He has served as a captain in the Fire Department for the past 15 years and previously with the Falmouth Fire Department for 10 years. He is also a member of the Coastal Mutual Aid Association.

He said the district needs more space and is in favor of the move to Sligo Road. As a ratepayer, he said he is pleased with the low rates and quality of water.

“Our water rates are among the lowest in the state,” he said. “I know we have an aging infrastructure and I want to add my input going forward. I am not afraid to ask some hard questions.”

Bill Stees

Stees, 68, of Sligo Road, is retired from Bath Iron Works, where he worked for 45 years as a senior electrical engineer.

Stees and his wife Marie have three grown children and three grandchildren. He  has lived in Yarmouth for 47 years.

He said he has concerns about the district and would like to serve on the board in order to get some answers and be a part of the system.

He said he is concerned because he started to smell and taste chlorine in his water in February. As one of the first homeowners on the water line, he said they can taste when the water has been treated and he’d like to know how long they plan to continue.

“We are paying our water bill and we are buying bottled water for potable water to make our tea, our coffee, some cooking,” he said.

He also said when the district replaces water lines, it tears up the roads without warning. His newly paved driveway was ripped out to replace the main lines without any notice, he said.

“The Water District does not have to answer to anybody,” he said.

Finally, Stees said the decision to move the district building to Sligo Road was also made without proper notification to the neighborhood.

“With the new building and the chlorination, it seems like a fly-by-night operation,” he said. “I want them to stop chlorinating and start telling the people what they are going to do before they do it.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson.

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