Gouldsboro Processor Done Deal
by Brenda Tredwell
On February 3, Gouldsboro selectmen agreed, in a 4-1 vote, to sign a Letter of Intent for a possible $200,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) on behalf of Live Lobster Co. The grant application will be endorsed by the town as an open-ended agreement, allowing Gouldsboro to rescind the action should Antonio Bussone, owner of Live Lobster Co., fail to deliver adequate site and business plans involving usage of a working piece of waterfront property. Selectmen fended off claims that the town was slowing down progress, noting that all businesses in this area undergo the same exact process. Bussone told selectmen that “Your [code enforcement officer] is abusing the authority that he has.” But selectmen concurred that the issues brought up were planning board issues.
Selectman James Watson wanted a guarantee that the project’s plans were solid. “We’re going to lose money if catch goes down,” said Watson. “We could be in a worse situation if this isn’t a viable business. I need to see something in writing. I’m a born downeaster….but I might as well be from Missouri – you got to show me.” Watson said the town was not responsible for delays. He said Bussone slowed his own process.
Selectman Jim McLean commented earlier in the meeting that, “As far as I can see, you haven’t done anything since last fall.” Bussone’s purchase of the former Stinson Sardine Cannery is not entirely complete. Details, including the question of Bumble Bee (Lion Capitol, LLC, England) holding a $500,000 note towards either purchase or renovation, puzzled fishermen. Bussone had mentioned that Bumble Bee didn’t produce necessary documentation to complete the sale. Live Lobster Co. has the purchase and sales agreement with Bumble Bee, but closure remains elusive.
Dana Rice, who has abstained from participating in the process since he is a lobster dealer in town, was under fire from Bussone. After direct questioning by Bussone, First Selectman Rice finally stated, “I’ll be blunt with you, Antonio. Buy it yourself, fine, (but) if you come to me and want to use taxpayers’ money…”
March 25 is the deadline for the CDBG money. There is also the possibility of a $200,000 state loan that would need the approval of the town selectmen. The CDBG grant, however, has locals seeing red. Many in the industry see the grant setting up an “unlevel playing field.”
Traditionally, cultivation and establishment of business relationships within the industry can take years to build. They are often based on trust, sweat, and money earned by working hard.
Former Stinson employee Peter Colson said, “I believe in Antonio and I believe we can make this work. I think he needs to get this thing going.” Al West, a former Stinson’s manager, backed that saying, “When he says he’s going to buy the plant and do something with it, he’ll do something with it.” Bussone’s last words at that meeting were, “I will prevail.”
Two weeks later, on Friday, February 18, Live Lobster Co. said it was elated to announce that it had signed the paperwork to acquire the former Bumble Bee plant in Gouldsboro, Maine. “We are humbled to assume control of such an historic property,” Bussone said in a press release. “We understand the facility has long been entrenched with ties to the fishing industry and the community, and it has instilled the values of hard work and passion upon all who work and reside nearby. We promise to continue in this tradition.”