Sault Ste. Marie, as one of the oldest settlements in North America, has no shortage of history and historical landmarks.
City Council, based on reports provided by City staff and with input from various stakeholders, will decide what to do with three of those landmarks in the short and long term.
The Memorial Tower (pictured), which is a highly visible and well respected tribute to Sault Ste. Marie veterans, is in need of structural repair.
A recent inspection of the Tower estimates the structure will need approximately $400,000 in repairs over the next five years.
Ward Three City Councillor Pat Mick, at Council’s January 20 meeting, emphasized her respect for Sault veterans, but suggested the $400,000 needed for Tower repairs could be spent on other City needs.
A report prepared for Council by Commissioner of Community Services Nick Apostle, and accepted by Council at its January 20 meeting, outlines the need for short-term repairs to be performed on the Memorial Tower, as recommended by Tulloch Engineering.
Necessary short-term repairs, Tulloch outlined in the report, include fixing or replacing the Tower’s copper roof cladding and repair to some of its existing concrete elements.
There is a danger that parts of copper or concrete could become lose and plummet to the ground, a clear danger to pedestrians and vehicles below.
Commissioner Apostle's report states the estimated cost for the short-term repair work is $22,000, however $30,000 is the figure included in the 2014 Capital Budget request.
City of Sault Ste. Marie Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Joe Fratesi, speaking to SooToday.com, said: “About $20,000 of repairs are recommended to be done almost immediately, and I would expect Council will approve that as part of budget deliberations.”
Fratesi said: “I’ve instructed staff to look around for programs from NOHFC, Trillium and FedNor to see if the bigger, long-term needs for the Tower might be addressed with financial assistance from those agencies.”
“There’s a lot of history and heritage in that structure that might assist us in applying for money for those repairs…in the meantime we’ve got to do some of those repairs this year and start working on the longer-term issues.”
It is recommended that the amount of money needed for short-term repairs be referred to Council's 2014 budget deliberations, and that long-term solutions be referred to future City budgets.
As for the fate of the Norgoma, an historic ferry which has financially struggled for years as a museum ship on the Sault Ste. Marie waterfront, three options were presented to Council in a report from Commissioner Apostle at Council’s January 20 meeting.
The third option, recommended by City staff, would involve the basin surrounding the Norgoma's stern to be dredged and the vessel to be removed for demolition at a ship breaking yard.
Total responsibility for the ship's demolition would then be borne by others, the report states.
That option is estimated to cost $200,000 to $300,000.
That option is considered by City staff to be the best, as it would mean the least involvement by the City, reduced environmental risk, and a chance to dredge the entire Roberta Bondar Marina to desired depths while the docks are removed temporarily.
Five-year funding for the Norgoma ended in 2012, however Council approved $15,000 in funding for another year in 2013 at the request of the St. Marys River Marine Heritage Centre (SMRMHC), the group which operates the Norgoma.
The SMRMHC will appear again before Council at its February 17 meeting.
Options to be discussed by Council in February would be for the City to provide more funding to the Norgoma or proceed with dismantling of the ship.
Fratesi said: “I’m not sure when the issue will be ultimately decided.”
“Discussion about the Norgoma has been ongoing well in excess of 20 years, and there will be a time soon, if not this year, that Council really needs to make a decision if it wants to get involved in capital requirements for the ship or bite the bullet and use the marina for other purposes.”
Ward Two City Councillor Susan Myers, at Council’s January 20 meeting, said the $300,000 option recommended by City staff would be a loss.
“Please don’t look at this as a saving, as opposed to spending $15,000 a year to keep the Norgoma open,” Myers said.
As for a third local landmark, the Bellevue Park locomotive known as “Porter,” Fratesi told us: “Council accepted (at its January 20 meeting) that staff indicated the City’s Legal Department and the provincial Ministry responsible for the Ontario Heritage Act determined the train ought not to have been designated under the Heritage Act…the decision (by the City) was erroneous.”
It is considered erroneous because, despite its considerable size and weight, the locomotive is not considered as a fixed, but rather moveable, object under the Act.
The locomotive was given to the City in the late 1960s by the Algoma Steel Corporation and placed in Bellevue Park, where it served as a play apparatus until 2006.
Because of liability concerns, the locomotive was discontinued as a play apparatus in 2006 by the City and fenced off.
City Council approved a request from the Sault Ste. Marie Municipal Heritage Committee (SSMMHC) to designate the locomotive under the Ontario Heritage Act in 2011.
Fratesi expects the SSMMHC will accept the City’s recommendation for the locomotive’s status under the Heritage Act to be discontinued.
While children will not be allowed to access the locomotive as a play area, Fratesi said the locomotive will continue to belong to the City (not to be scrapped), whether it continues to be fenced off, covered with a canopy, repainted with its proper, traditional colours or perhaps even removed to another site.
“It will still be a good-looking train,” Fratesi said.