The M.S. Norgoma is going to be a hot debate on Monday at city council as both sides will look to speak on behalf of keeping the ship with many heavy, and by heavy I mean expensive upgrades, or slate it for removal and restoration by a Mr. Gregos-Nicols.
Regardless of the decision regarding the M.S. Norgoma the docks need to be replaced at the Roberta Bondar Marina, at a tidy sum.
The St. Mary’s River Marine Heritage Centre board of directors, a volunteer group, has contributed numerous hours towards the management and maintenance of the M.S. Norgoma and should be commended for their years of hard work and service.
The M.S. Norgoma has been a seasonal attraction which operates from mid-June to Labour Day each year and opens for special events in the fall.
But the City of Sault Ste. Marie has a number of city-owned assets which require investment.
Each year the investment required to maintain these assets far outweighs the available financial resources. In addition, the City supports a number of outside agencies such as the Sault Ste. Marie Museum, Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre and Art Gallery of Algoma who experience financial challenges and as a result have requested additional funding from the city to support their activities.
The amount of funds available to these organizations is limited and council must prioritize the allocation of funds to outside agencies and organizations. It must also consider the impact of these attractions and organizations to the community and the tourism sector.
Council sets the priorities and determines the funding to outside agencies and organizations. In consideration of the information above, city staff would recommend pursuing the option to enter into an agreement with Mr. Gregos-Nicols for the following reasons:
- A significant investment is required to upgrade, operate and maintain the vessel properly
- There is a limited operating window of the museum and therefore a limited community benefit relative to the investment required
- The organization relies entirely on summer student staffing and community volunteers
- Despite numerous attempts and strategies nothing has taken hold and there is no current strategic plan (although the board has indicated they are working on an updated plan)
- The vessel has limited impact to attract visitors as a unique tourism facility
- There is limited grant funding available and any money received by the M.S. Norgoma could affect funding available for other cultural and museum attractions
- City staff acknowledges the views of the Municipal Heritage Committee and Cultural Advisory Board – this option enables this vessel to be preserved (although not maintained in the community)
- Removing the M.S. Norgoma enables the reconfiguration of the marina to better serve boaters
- While the boat does legally belong to the S.M.R.M.H.C, the city does bear liability in the event the organization dissolves or cannot meet its obligations. The M.S. Norgoma also resides in the city owned marina and features prominently on the revitalized waterfront.
- The recommendation requires the board to pass a resolution requesting to be released from clause one in the 1982 agreement with Ontario Ministry of Transportation. In the event the board is unwilling to do so, the city legal department has identified provisions in the agreement that would enable the city to proceed with this option.
City staff wants to stress that “again, this is not meant to diminish the work of the board and volunteers over the years. Simply, it is a matter of limited funds and prioritization that ultimately council will determine.”