Water, sewer trustee resigns

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — With two years remaining in his term on the Water and Sewer District’s Board of Trustees, Chairman Jim Geary has resigned, effective immediately.

“I had told the board a month earlier that I was going to do it, but dragged my feet,” said Geary in an interview with the Islander.

He said the reason for his resignation is an intense workload at his day job as the Chief Financial Officer of the Maine Community Foundation. Members of the water and sewer district board of trustees are required to attend meetings once a month and are very involved in the decisions of the district.

“It really takes a lot of vigilance,” he said. “It was a lot of work to get where we are. Steve [Kenney, district manager] is the guy that really pulled it together.”

Fellow board member Jim Vekasi has also said he will not run for another term on the board when his expires at the end of this year. Current members of the board include Vekasi, Ralph Dunbar Jr., Lee Worcester and Town Manager Justin VanDongen.

Trustees are appointed by the board of selectmen. Last week, selectmen reviewed a proposed draft of an outlined procedure for making those appointments. Once they have approved the procedure, town officials will begin the process of recruiting and vetting two new trustees.

Appointment of trustees was the source of some conflict between selectmen last fall when they disagreed about whether the appointments could be considered personnel decisions and thus be discussed in executive session.

Formed in January 2016, the Southwest Harbor Water and Sewer District is a quasi-municipal organization that took over the town’s public water and sewer systems following voter approval. When the district was formed, there were three members on the board of trustees, one being the Town Manager. Geary and Vekasi were the two appointed members of the original board.

In the fall of 2017, when then-Town Manager Don Lagrange was on medical leave, the board went down to two members until the state legislature approved increasing the board to five members in November of that year. Dunbar and Worcester were appointed to the board to bring the membership to five.

“I renewed my term reluctantly a year ago because of Don’s health,” Geary said. His first term on the board was for two years and the second appointment was for a three years.

In addition to his volunteer service on the district’s board, Geary also serves on the town’s Board of Appeals, as treasurer for the Maine Seacoast Mission’s Board of Directors and is a member of the finance council of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland (Maine). Each of these other boards meets fewer than a half dozen times a year, explained Geary. Meeting once a month for the district board was more than he is able to commit to at this time, he said.

At a Nov. 13 special town meeting, voters approved authorizing selectmen to enter into an agreement with the district to pay debt service on a half-million dollar bond. The bond money is being used for renovations and repairs to the town’s water pumping station at the south end of Long Pond.


Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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