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TOPIC: Council may reconsider evicting Norgoma - temporarily

Council may reconsider evicting Norgoma - temporarily 1 year 1 month ago #548

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“We have a group of young people who believe it the Norgoma and are working to make some great changes. Squashing their enthusiasm is sending the wrong message to young people in our community," says Sandra Hollingsworth

By Elaine Della-Mattia
Published on: September 5, 2018 | Last Updated: September 5, 2018 4:53 PM EDT

M.S. Norgoma in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., on Saturday, June 2, 2018. (BRIAN KELLY/THE SAULT STAR/POSTMEDIA NETWORK) SUNMEDIA

A move is afoot to have city council reconsider tossing the M.S. Norgoma out of the Bondar Marina.
The turnaround is directly as a result of the efforts a new board has put into the waterfront museum and the number of events that have shaped up the ship’s presence in the downtown.
Councillors Judy Hupponen and Frank Fata are set to table the reconsideration motion at Monday’s city council meeting.
In April, city council directed staff to investigate and report back on how to remove the Norgoma from the downtown marina by the end of August. That was followed up by a vote to evict the then-eyesore vessel.
But a new board of directors of the St. Mary’s River Marine Heritage Centre has taken over operations have injected new life in its operations. A new long-term strategic plan was developed with the assistance of NORDIK and a number of revenue generating events and fundraisers have occurred on board throughout the summer.
Hupponen said that enthusiasm and energy should be rewarded by reconsidering whether the new board should have more time to find a new home for the Norgoma.
She is still of the view that the Norgoma needs to be removed from the Bondar Marina but is open to providing the group with more time to find an alternative location that can still be successful and convenient to the public.
“I changed my mind because I took note of the work and the efforts the new board has put into the Norgoma this summer and I’ve seen a few presentation on the plans,” she said.
St. Mary’s River Marine Heritage Centre president Louis Muio said an extensive search is underway to look for an alternative local location for the Norgoma. Neither Parks Canada, the Canadian Heritage Bushplane Museum or Michigan’s Valley Camp can accommodate the ship.
The board has also made a request to the Sault Ste. Marie Region Conservation Authority to store the vessel on Conservation Authority property adjacent to the former hospitals. It’s unclear whether the request is for temporary or permanent storage at that location.
Rhonda Bateman, manager of the Conservation Authority, said she’s currently conducting the research to determine what can or can’t be done.
“The request has been made and the board will have the information for its board meeting and can take a position then,” she said.
Bateman said the Conservation Authority purchased part of the waterfront property in the early 1980s because, at that time, very little waterfront property allowed for public access.
The Conservation Authority still owns the “middle portion” of the boat slip located there with the city and Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry having ownership of other parts of that structure.
While the Conservation Authority has a dated, but valid document that provides it with the right of occupation to use its portion of the dock, all access must be approved through written consent by the Minister of Natural Resources and that application process may take some time.
Bateman said she’s still researching and doesn’t have all the information on approval procedures available yet.
Fata, who has agreed to second the reconsideration motion, said he’s been keeping tabs on the Norgoma’s activities this summer.
“To me, costs are a factor. I anticipate large costs to remove it and I hear things are not progressing with the businessman from Chicago,” he said.
Based on what he has seen this summer, Fata said a conversation about reconsidering the Norgoma’s removal is in order.
“I think we need to keep an open mind and have the discussion. If we have a group of youth that want to give it a go, we should be encouraging them, not discouraging them and give them a year to try it,” he said.
Muio agrees momentum has been building to keep the Norgoma afloat and the number of events the vessel has hosted is increasing, which allowed the group to hire Purvis Marine to paint the ship at a cost of $13,500.
Muio said the volunteer group is also looking at the former Suncor site as a potential area to moor the ship, and initial enquiries have been made.
“It would be very encouraging if the eviction notice was rescinded,” he said. “I think it was an initial reaction based on the visual appearance of the Norgoma and that’s behind us now. We’ve become a centre of activity.”
Huge capital costs prevent the ship from being converted to a bed and breakfast at this point, but it can continue to be used for other events, Muio said.
A petition, to be presented to city council, has garnered 979 online supports and 760 signatures on the hard copy, he said.
Ward 2 Coun. Sandra Hollingsworth, a proponent of saving the Algoma, said she believes it is city council’s duty to allow the new board of young people, between the ages of 25 to 40, to prove that there could be a positive future for the ship.
“City council should not squash the enthusiasm of young people that are passionate about a community cause, (but) instead embrace and support their interest,” she said.
Hollingsworth said she’s been trying to convince councillors to reconsider the matter.
She argues the fall is not the time to remove the boat and refurbish docks with the winter ahead.
“Allowing this new group to have a chance to make a difference in Sault Ste. Marie is more important,” she said. “We have a group of young people who believe in the Norgoma and are working to make some great changes. Squashing their enthusiasm is sending the wrong message to young people in our community.”
Hollingsworth said the Norgoma has also provided employment to 11 youths this summer. Events and visitor numbers are on the rise with just more than 5,100 people aboard the ship this season.
It’s estimated that number could grow another 1,500 with booking requests.
Requests for venue rentals and ship usage throughout September are also up and include weddings, music events, art shows, birthday parties and film production requests, among others.
In 2017, statistics show 5,800 people visited the shop, up slightly from the previous two years.
“This new board has also partnered with a number of groups in our community to plan some of these events,” Hollingsworth said.
The M.S. Norgoma has also joined the Ontario Museum Association as an institutional member, and has been working with the regional museum network for Algoma, the North Shore Cultural Attractions Network.
If the Norgoma is allowed to stay, the board has been approached by a group that wants to film a two-part educational piece Search Out The Land – The Story of the Jewish Community in Canada.
“That will depend on whether the Norgoma is still there in October and November,” Muio said.
The Norgoma has not received any funding from the city for the past four years and operates completely on its own. It can continue doing so, he said.
The M.S. Norgoma was acquired by the city in 1975 and has been located at the Roberta Bondar Marina since 1994.
The 185-foot-long vessel served as a means of transportation between Owen Sound, Ont., and Sault Ste. Marie and a car ferry between Tobermory and South Maymouth. It’s considered one of the last surviving ships from that era.
For many years now, the Norgoma, which serves as a ship museum in the city’s downtown waterfront, has struggled to survive.
Feasibility studies completed as early as 2000 and 2001 suggested that the Norgoma be relocated.
In the fall of 2011, Parks Canada unveiled a Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque at Roberta Bondar Park, adjacent to the Norgoma, commemorating the passenger and packet freighters on the Upper Great Lakes as a National Historic Event.
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