Way back when, I supported locating the retired MS Norgoma at what is now known as the Roberta Bondar Marina.
I thought it could be a tourist attraction but also something locals might spend some time in, depending on what was done with the ship.
It didn’t turn out that way on either front.
Although those involved in the St. Mary’s River Marine Heritage Centre put a lot of time, effort and money, a lot of the latter coming from the city, into the ship, they never seemed able to bring it to the level of a legitimate enterprise.
Therefore I had no objection when the city removed the Norgoma from the marina on June 4 at a cost of about $50,000 and is now berthing it on a temporary basis at a location owned by Purvis Marine, just west of Algoma Steel, at a cost of $40 a day.
The city back in 1981 had conveyed the Norgoma to the St. Mary’s River Marine Heritage Centre.
It now wants the ship back and has filed a motion with the court to bring this about.
Sault Star reporter Elaine Della-Mattia quoted City CAO Malcolm White as saying the city believes that the St. Mary’s River Marine Heritage Centre breached the terms of its 1981 agreement, which allows the city to reconvey the vessel.
She also said it is seeking costs for moving the ship from Roberta Bondar Marina, the cost of berthing it at the Purvis dock and costs associated with completing repairs, including the remediation and removal of contaminated water from the hull of the ship.
Louis Muio, chair of the St. Mary’s River Marine Heritage Centre, was quoted as saying, “It’s disappointing that the city would hardline a bunch of volunteers who have put a lot of time into this ship and only want to run it as a museum.”
But beyond that Muio seemed to send out a mixed message, saying the board was under the impression the city had taken over the ownership of the Norgoma but also announcing that the board had recently hired Elliott Lake lawyer Doug Elliott to discuss options and determine how to proceed.
The board can fight to retain ownership of the Norgoma but I have to ask, why would it”
It couldn’t make a go of it when it was berthed at the Roberta Bondar Marina, where does it think it could make a go of it now? It doesn’t have a home for it; it couldn’t find a home for it when the city said it wanted it moved, why would anyone think a home would suddenly appear now?
No, I suggest the board, which has said it only has about $25,000 in its coffers, call it a day and let the city have its way with it.
I have no doubt allowing the ship to return to city ownership will mean it will be destroyed because as it stands it will just remain a drag on taxpayers’ money. The city, as with the board, would have no means of turning it into a profit-making venture, not that it would want to.
I think the board should walk away, saving everyone court costs.
But having said that, I think the city should do some walking too.
These volunteers made a valiant effort over the years to turn into a viable enterprise a ship that the city, not they, brought to Sault Ste. Marie.
As such, I don’t think they should be saddled with any of the costs of getting rid of the vessel, other than passing on to the city the $25,000 they have on hand, minus any outstanding expenses.
I believe if the city can find the money, about $7.5 million, to turn the redo of Bay Street into a “signature project”, surely it should be able to eat the cost of decommissioning the Norgoma, rather than attempting to foist them onto a local group whose efforts, although valiant, fell short..