Cargill says it can’t sell grain elevator to local group

Terry Fazakas, a local business owner, confirmed this week that efforts to buy the elevator have failed. | Terry Fazakas photo

A grassroots effort to save a concrete grain elevator from the wrecking ball in Raymore, Sask., has hit a roadblock, but there is still a glimmer of hope that the building can be preserved.

Officials with Cargill confirmed June 2 that the company will not be putting its Raymore elevator on the market, despite a proposal from local residents who want to buy the building.

The 30-year-old facility is owned by Cargill but it sits on leased land that is owned by Canadian National Railway.

“Cargill has reviewed your proposal (to buy the facility) and shared highlights of such proposal with CN,” Cargill’s Jeff Wildeman wrote in a June 2 letter to local businessowner and prospective buyer Terry Fazakas.

“After review, CN has indicated that it cannot release Cargill from the obligations of its current lease and therefore, will not permit the outright transfer of the leased land.”

However, on June 6, Cargill spokesperson Connie Tamoto said the company is still involved in discussions with CN.

“After sending our (June 2) letter to Mr. Fazakas, we have subsequently reached out to CN again for further discussion and clarity,” Tamoto told The Western Producer.

“As you may appreciate, these types of discussions take time.”

Fazakas has been leading a grassroots community effort to save the elevator.

He and others in the community would like to see the facility preserved and used to attract new businesses and create new jobs.

Fazakas contacted Cargill earlier this year and expressed an interest in buying the elevator.

Fazakas has also contacted CN about acquiring title to the land.

He said the railway is concerned over potential liabilities and complications related to breaking its lease with Cargill.

“It would be nice if we could somehow get a deal … but I’m kind of at an end right now,” Fazakas said recently. “I don’t know what else we can do.”

Raymore’s town council has yet to issue a demolition permit, he added.

A permit would be required before the facility could be destroyed.

The fate of the Raymore elevator has prompted terse comments from the province’s farmers, many of whom have seen a significant reduction in the number of rural delivery points for grain and a corresponding increase in the distance their grain must be trucked.

Observers say the closure of the Raymore elevator will eliminate one more delivery point, forcing more heavy truck traffic onto the provincial highway system.

Dave Marzolf, a producer from Central Butte, Sask., said Cargill’s decision to demolish the elevator makes no sense.

He said the province’s highway system is still paying the price for grain industry rationalization that took place 25 to 30 years ago.

“The infrastructure in Saskatchewan can’t take what happened 25 years ago, and if grain companies consolidate one more time, it’s nonsense,” Marzolf said.

“With a couple of tin cans on the side, that (Raymore) facility could easily go to a 100 car spot.”

Marzolf said governments that are struggling to maintain provincial highway systems should take steps to prevent elevator closures and ensure that as much grain as possible is moved by rail.

“The government allows these closures to happen … because (Cargill and CN) are private corporations,” he said.

“But private corporations aren’t paying the highway infrastructure bills.”

Fazakas has contacted the Saskatchewan government but was still waiting for a response as of June 7.

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