BUCKSPORT – A City Council Candidates Forum held at Brown Hall on Tuesday night ahead of the upcoming Nov. 2 election sounded the alarm over Whole Oceans continued interest in developing a land-based salmon operation in the city. This concern, according to city officials, is unfounded.
Whole Oceans intends to develop a recirculating aquaculture facility to raise Atlantic salmon on part of the former Verso plant site.
One question that Verona Island moderator Stephen York posed to applicants was, “What do you think the city can do about the Whole Oceans Project?” The permits for this are about to expire and there is no tangible sign that this will happen.
There have been varied responses.
“We obviously have to woo someone else,” candidate Bruce Ashmore said.
Candidate Joe Davanzo said if the project does not come to fruition, he believes the city should develop a botanical garden on the site. He said it would create around 100 jobs and be a destination for cruise ship passengers arriving at Bucksport.
“What the board needs to do is push for this communication,” said Councilor Dan Ormsby. “Make sure that we receive regular information. “
However, the salmon farm is still ongoing, according to city officials.
Whole Oceans state and federal permits do not expire, Rich Rotella, Bucksport’s director of economic development, said on Wednesday.
“They bought a new plot earlier this year,” Rotella said. This is lot 3 – approximately 10 acres.
Local permits also don’t expire, Bucksport code enforcement manager Luke Chiavelli said on Wednesday.
“They were given a five-year permit due to the complexity of the project,” Chiavelli said. “They asked for 10 years, but the Planning Council is not allowed to extend beyond five years.”
Chiavelli said the company has yet to secure a permit for the new plot.
Initially, Whole Oceans shared a schedule indicating that construction was due to begin in the spring of 2020.
Rotella said there are activities that must take place at the site before construction begins.
Soil tests and decontamination must be carried out on the new plot.
“They’re finishing off the mitigation,” Rotella said. “From a construction point of view, it’s going to take time. If this is still the original plan, they must detonate what they must descend to a certain distance.
The American was unable to reach Whole Oceans for comment before press time.
In other forum business, York posed a question to one of the audience members about the candidates‘ perception of an LGBTQ pride celebration – the first to take place in Bucksport – last June. The city council had to issue a permit for the event because it took place on city property.
York posed the question to the three challengers: Ashmore, Davanzo and Tracey Hair.
“I didn’t attend it myself, but I understand it was a positive experience for those who did, and they were very happy to have a place to host their festival,” said Ashmore.
Davanzo said, “My perception? It’s OK. Having worked with children in shelters, I really worry about the influence people can have on children. When it comes to fairs, who cares? I have a family of this nature.
York asked Davanzo for further explanation.
“The word ‘OK’ raises this question,” York said. “Find out what you mean by OK. There are citizens of this city who are LGBTQ citizens and there was a pride celebration, which the current council approved. All I ask of you is, “OK” is not right for me. I don’t want to get into the pedophilia myth because it’s so unscientific it’s not funny. If you had been on the board, how would you have voted?
“I would have voted yes,” Davanzo replied.
“This is the answer I want, thank you,” York said.
Hair said she attended the event, describing it as one of the best events she has attended in her 46 years.
“I went to the fair,” Hair said. “It was pizza, ice cream, families. I am part of the LGBTQ community. I run family shelters for the homeless, they are doing very well.
The Bucksport municipal election is scheduled for Tuesday, November 2. City clerk Jacob Gran said polling stations would be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Outgoing councilors Dan Ormsby, Paul Bissonnette and James Morrison are running for re-election. Newcomers Hair, Ashmore and Davanzo are also looking for board positions.
The forum was hosted by The Bucksport Enterprise.