New Brunswick

Smurfit-Stone silos still stand as city, property owner argue over funding

The money is there to do the job — but it's anybody's guess when the three remaining concrete silos on the former Smurfit-Stone paper mill site will be torn down.

Property owner Raymond Robichaud says the City of Bathurst is stalling on improvements to property

The city of Bathurst has received money from the province to tear down the three remaining silos on the Smurfit-Stone property. (Serge Bouchard/Radio Canada)

The money is there to do the job — but it's anybody's guess when the three remaining concrete silos on the former Smurfit-Stone paper mill site will be torn down.

Raymond Robichaud, who owns the property, says he learned the City of Bathurst received a letter six weeks ago saying  the provincial government pay for $150,000 worth of work.

But he's heard nothing from anyone at city hall about it. And the local resident is adamant​ no one is going on his property without his permission. 

Property owner, Raymond Robichaud, says no one will be going onto his property, the former Smurfit-Stone, to tear down the remaining three silos. (Serge Bouchard/Radio Canada)

"Well the mayor has $150,000 available to him for a month and a half and I have a contractor from Quebec that's taken down about 50 of those [silos]  and he's willing to come down and take them down for me," Robichaud said. 

"He'd be dealing with Environment, [WorkSafeNB], he'd be doing all the work to bring them down." 

Robichaud said it would cost $150,000 to do the work — the total amount given to the city by the province. 

"The money was put there for me to take them down," Robichaud said.

Mayor Paolo Fongemie would not confirm the amount received, indicating it could affect the tendering process. 

The city is now looking into how it can legally tear down the silos on land it doesn't own. 

"I'm not letting anybody on my property," " Robichaud said. "I own the property. I took three of them [silos] down, I've got over 6,000 loads of backfill put into it. I want to continue and finish it."

Ongoing saga

This is the latest development at the former mill site that has been plagued with controversy since it was closed abruptly in 2005. 

Once the home of Consolidated Bathurst, a longtime employer in the city, the mill was closed by Smurfit-Stone, the next owner of the mill.

The property was eventually bought by Bathurst Redevelopment Inc., in 2010, with promises to clean up the site.

Instead, valuable metals and equipment were removed and the property was stripped of value. The remaining silos, a dilapidated office building, and rubble were described as an "eyesore" by members of the public.

The developer was fined a "symbolic sum" of $150,000 for breaching a ministerial order to clean up the property to standards set by the Department of Environment.

After Bathurst Redevelopment Inc. became insolvent, it transferred the site to developer Raymond Robichaud for $1. 

Unfinished plans

Two years after that transaction, with three of the silos still standing, there is still no sign of the development promised by Robichaud.

He now owes $1 million in taxes on the property. That would have been waived if he met certain criteria, including following a development schedule and complying with any environmental orders.

But a promised environmental cleanup did not happen and the last silo was taken down a year ago. 

If he can get the three remaining silos down, Robichaud said, he has banks and an investor from Ontario interested in putting money into his proposed plans.

Those plans include building high-end waterfront apartments and turning the old office building into a pharmacy and medical offices. 

"Nobody wants to invest as long as those ugly silos are there," he said. 

Progress halted says owner

Despite the setbacks, Robichaud is confident his plans will happen.

Until then, he's waiting to meet with city council to see if they can reach some kind of agreement with the funding the city received.

But he's received no response to his request. 

Bathurst Mayor Paolo Fongemie has previously said he wants the province to seize the former Smurfit-Stone property. (Radio Canada )

"It's stopping me from progressing on the project," he said. 

CBC News was unable to confirm with Fongemie if the city would meet with Robichaud about the property.

The mayor previously said he was fed up with how long things were taking and wanted the province to step in and take over the property. 

In the meantime, construction of a new gas station on property across the street from Smurfit-Stone is underway. Robichaud said that is being done with another company he owns and has shares in. 

With files from Radio-Canada