The owners of grain condominiums at the Parrish and Heimbecker terminal will organize a subcommittee this summer, once seeding is done, to update their ownership agreement to reflect the new reality in agriculture and at the company.
John Heimbecker, vice president of Parrish and Heimbecker, acted as the emcee for the information meeting, laying out some of the shortfalls in the current operating agreement in an attempt to win over the trust of the condo space owners, in light of the contentious shareholders meeting held recently where the purchase of WIT was approved by the majority of shareholders.
In talking about the changes made since P&H has taken over ownership of the former Weyburn Inland Terminal, Heimbecker pointed out a number of places where he could have just made a decision, such as replacing the board of directors which currently only has one person on it. But, he said, he doesn’t want to do that, he would prefer that the condo owners group determined for themselves who the board members should be.
There were about 120 condo owners present for the meeting, held at McKenna Hall, out of the 283 owners of grain condo space at the Terminal; collectively they own a total space of 1.9 million bushels.
The condo owners had a board with three members, but were told two directors resigned within the last two weeks; currently only Ray Flaten is still a director.
“P&H could’ve gone ahead and appointed two directors, but that wouldn’t be the best way to proceed,” said Heimbecker.
He noted there were concerns raised at the special shareholders meeting, where the vote for the purchase of WIT was held, about how the condos were going to be handled by the new owners, “and those comments weren’t lost on me. The first thing we wanted to do, once the transaction had gone through, was to meet face to face and see how you guys want to see the condos be operated.”
He added that he would like to see the group of condo owners “have fair representation, and a fair voice on how the condos should operate. To my way of thinking, we should think about how we want the board constituted. It’s not balanced in favour of the condo owners.”
Heimbecker also felt the agreement as it’s currently worded is vague in places, and he said he’d rather the language was plain and clear. For example, he said, he finds it odd that there is no reserve fund for this condo group, and if any new charges or fees are to be instituted, then the bylaws of incorporation will need ratification.
“We’re operating with rules and regulations in regard to delivery that are from a bygone era. We should discuss whether we want to change them,” said Heimbecker, pointing out one of the changes needs to reflect that the Canadian Wheat Board no longer exists as the monopoly for wheat and barley as it once was.
As far as a reserve fund, he said if the condo owners decide they don’t want one, that would be fine, but he noted all the condo agreements P&H has in other locations all have a reserve fund in place in case repairs need to be made to the facility at some point.
“That was fine when you guys were with WIT, but it leaves you open to potential abuse by us; there are places where the agreement could be a win-win situation. We’re trying to revitalize the facility. I do believe you guys are exposed a little bit where you have vagueness. That’s where you can get arguments in the driveway,” said Heimbecker.
Condo owner Dale Mainil raised the question of what the value of the condos were, and said, “I don’t trust in P&H; I hope you can gain that trust. There’s more questions than answers from my standpoint.”
“I agree, the way is to get at those trust concerns. We’ve been around for 106 years, so we must have been doing something right,” replied Heimbecker.
On the issue of whether fees should be charged, he assured the condo owners, “We don’t have a secret intention to charge fees. We want to create a document that reflects what the current reality is.”
Asked what time-frame he’s looking at for the changes to be made, he said there is no time-frame in mind, and no rush to change anything; the consensus by the end of the meeting was to wait until June 20 when all seeding and spring field work should be done, then to have a 20-day nomination period, and then 20 days to vote and get a four-member subcommittee in place to go over the needed changes.
As to how voting should be done by condo owners, Heimbecker said his view is that it should be based on the number of bushels capacity individual condo owners own, as those who own 50,000 bushels of space have more at stake than a producer with 5,000 bushels of space, a comment that was reflected by a number of condo owners during the meeting.
Condo owner Dan Cugnet raised the issue of right of first refusal in the case of unsold condo spaces, if P&H would buy it if no was buying it.
“We would prefer it stay with the customers; we have no particular interest in owning any,” said Heimbecker.
In regard to nominating and voting, some producers noted they don’t know who all the condo owners are, and asked if a list of condo owners was possible to access; P&H indicated they would have to check with their legal counsel on whether it was legal to release such a list, and Heimbecker said he’ll send out a letter to indicate if there will be such a list made available.