As of midnight on Friday, The M.S. Norgoma’s eviction notice has taken affect. This decision was made by City Council in April of this year, after Mayor Christian Provenzano expressed his concerns about the deteriorating state of the ship last summer.
Despite this, the St. Mary’s River Marine Heritage Centre isn’t giving up its fight to keep the Norgoma in the Sault.
“The city, they’re not really enforcing the eviction notice – it’s not like they can haul us out of here while the docks are in the marina,” said St. Mary’s River Marine Heritage Centre Board Member Derek Pearce. “It’s going to cost a lot of money to move us, and they’ve got to remove all of the docks and find out if the marina’s deep enough to pull us out.”
Pearce said the Heritage Centre is putting together a petition to take to council to save the Norgoma.
“We’re also going through the comments on another media site’s article and they have a poll at the bottom of the article, which has been leaning towards people want (the ship) to be here, so that should be a clear indicator to City Council how the citizens view the Norgoma,” he said.
The petition has two parts – one online, and one paper one that’s housed on the ship. Combined, the current signature count is at 1,300 – just over one-third of the 3,000 they’re looking for.
Pearce said although he’s not 100 per cent sure why council is so against the ship being moored at the Roberta Bondar Marina, he does believe it has something to do with the previous Heritage Centre Board members.
“A lot of people, too, are complaining that the previous board, they didn’t do any fundraising and stuff over the years that they had it, and, well you know, sometimes that happens when people get tired and they might lack a little ambition,” he explained.
He said that isn’t the case with the new, younger board members.
“But with this new board that we have coming on – it’s young museum professionals – so these are people who know how to run a museum, like Julia from the Sault Museum, Will from The Old Stone House – these people are people who know how to run museums. Now that we have these people on board, we’re actually doing stuff. And then with me on board, we’ve got more of a tech aspect, as I have a lot of tech background. We’re looking at building a fully functional theatre in the basement of our ship so that we can have movie screenings and stuff like that. So we’re working on it,” he continued. “I think this City Council’s a little backwards thinking – they’re removing tourist items from the waterfront in a city that really doesn’t have anything on the waterfront for tourists. They got the lock boats removed years and years ago when they didn’t want to operate them anymore, so there’s one thing that was lost, now they’re going to remove the Norgoma. What’s down here for tourists to want to come down to the waterfront to see?”
Pearce said that despite the pushback from council, the ship is doing quite well, with 40+ visitors each day, as well as nine bookings through the fall, including weddings.
“A couple of film crews also want to come on and film it,” he added.
So, what happens now?
Pearce said they’re hoping the petition will show council that the citizens of the Sault want the Norgoma to stay. Additionally, Pearce told SaultOnline that the board has been bringing both candidates and current council members on board to show them just how valuable the ship is to the city.
“Maybe the new councilors that are voted in might have different views than the current ones. I know, obviously my views are pro towards the Norgoma, I believe Winona Hutchinson is another one that is supportive of it, and there’s a few more. I believe Rory Ring – we had him on the boat – he thought it was a fantastic tourist spot,” he said. “He seemed to love it, so there could be potential support there from a mayor candidate, which is awesome. Same with Ted Johnston, he was on and absolutely loved the boat, so we definitely have support from figures of the new council. And we are talking to members of the current council, trying to change their minds – I know I had Frank Fata on the boat, and I believe he was one who voted against it, previously.”
On top of that, the Norgoma has a GoFundMe page, with plans to launch another one through Northern Credit Union in the works. Pearce said currently, their GoFundMe page is at $1,000 with a goal of $9,000.
This issue comes back to the City Council table on Sept. 10.