The Board of Directors of the Museum ship Norgoma are not feeling the love from the new Mayor and council.
After several years of funding the volunteer run ship of $15,000 annually, council voted Monday as part of this year’s budget to let the ship sink or swim by itself. “I wasn’t surprised, but very disappointed” said board member Gordon Smedley, who has sat on the board since 1981. The St. Mary’ s Marine Society have looked after the historic ship for over 37 years after buying the vessel from the city for $1.
The $15,000 in funding from the City has been in place for about 6 years said Smedley. “We had on-going support for about five years, last year council approved the funding but warned it couldn’t guarantee on-going support with the new council”
At one point in time, the Norgoma was considered a “lifeline” for communities along the North Shore. Her name was taken from the prefix “Nor” used by the Owen Sound Transportation Company for ships of her fleet. The prefix was coupled with “Goma”, which refers to the Algoma District of Ontario.
It took it’s last voyage from Owen Sound to Sault Ste. Marie on September 17, 1963. It carried passengers as well as vehicles. The ship was turned into a vehicle ferry for several years before being taken out of commission.
The Norgoma has been a sore point for many, including those on council who believe the ship has outlived its purpose and should be dismantled or sunk. That is easier said than done, estimates to dismantle it, possibly sell it for scrap metal or sink it to be become an underwater site for divers comes at a huge cost, roughly $200,000 or more.
The board however does have long term plans to convert it to a Bed and Breakfast however Smedley says it would need in excess of $100,000 to do that.
Though Smedley is disappointed with the lack of support from the City, 2014 turned out to be a banner year for the Norgoma attracting 5,000 visitors last year and a number of new events to attract local people to the waterfront Ship.
“We had a great year, so financially I think we’re okay” Smedley added,”the $15,000 support from the City also helped the board attract other government programs such as hiring summer students.
Last year, the board approved a maintenance program for the ship with the help of the city funding. “It bought us a lot of paint” Without the on-going support, the future is unknown for the ship after this season. “We had extensive restoration of some of the rooms last year like the Captain’s cabin and the Wheel House”
The board also opened up the ship for different events using the ship as a unique venue. A haunted ship was created for the Halloween season that attracted thousands nightly.
The Ship plans other events this Summer and Fall with hopes it can create new revenue streams to keep the ship afloat.
The Norgoma opens in June and runs to Labour Day after Labour Day the ship is open to those who want to book it for events. The ship has been used for meetings, receptions, student activities and displays in recent years.
“It’s very important to the City, it’s upsetting we have no support from the City” Smedley added.
The volunteer board is made up of seven individuals within the community.