Sale of Southworth building repays outstanding bills to Montague

  • The former Southworth building has officially been sold for $679,087. The new owner expects to have a tenant lined up by February. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 1/15/2020 10:35:10 PM
Modified: 1/15/2020 10:34:18 PM

MONTAGUE — When the Southworth paper company went out of business in August 2017, it not only abandoned its Turners Falls mill and laid off about 60 local employees; the company also left about $466,000 in unpaid bills to various Montague municipal offices, plus other unpaid debts.

Two and a half years later, the building is officially under new ownership. The owner, Tom Cusano, a real estate developer from New Hampshire, is “extremely optimistic” that the building will be operational again this year, and expects to have a tenant lined up as soon as February.

Cusano closed the sale of the building on Dec. 27, 2019, for $679,087. The entire sale price was to repay Southworth’s overdue bills, he said; the only people who made any profit on the sale were banks and other creditors collecting interest.

All that’s left of Southworth itself is its former CEO, who is based in Seattle and has never seen the Turners Falls building, Cusano said. The CEO did not collect any money from the sale. In effect, the deal was that Cusano would take over the defunct company’s overdue bills, and would get the building in exchange.

For Montague, the overdue bills were not significant enough to have caused cashflow issues, according to Town Administrator Steve Ellis. But he said having the money in hand will help with paying for relatively major one-time expenses.

The largest single portion of money in the deal went to the town sewer department, for an unpaid $300,000 sewer bill. Chief Operator Kevin Boissonnaut, who is currently serving as interim superintendent, said the money is likely enough to positively impact the Water Pollution Control Facility’s ability to pay for needed upgrades.

Boissonnaut did not mention specific projects, but said that the department is exploring upgrades and possibilities for saving on energy costs.

“As with any of the plants around, this is an aging facility that hasn’t really been upgraded,” he said. “There is a lot that needs to be taken care of here.”

At the former Southworth building, repairs and restorations are ongoing. Cusano has bought and rehabilitated two other similar mill buildings before, and has said before that this one is in relatively good condition by comparison.

Yet, there is damage, mostly from being left empty for two winter seasons. Cusano said he has found several hundred broken pipes.

“They essentially shut off the power and walked away,” he said.

Still, he said he has several potential tenants who seem to be seriously interested. He expects to have a letter of intent by February, and discussions regarding a lease and any necessary permits from the town will come soon after that.

Reach Max Marcus at or 413-772-0261, ext. 261.

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