MANITOWANING—“That’s the end of the story,” Dave Ham, president of the S.S. Norisle Steamship Society told The Expositor in answer to the settlement of a lawsuit between the Society and the Township of Assiginack, in favour of the township, late last month.
As was reported earlier, the Society had sued the municipality for $10 million for what it considered a breach of contract. The court settled in favour of the municipality with Assiginack paying the Society $45,000 to cover the costs of the asbestos removal that took place a few years ago, something that would have needed to occur under law no matter what the use of the Norisle would eventually be.
The Norisle is slated to be towed by the Tobermory Maritime Association (TMA) to a spot just outside the Fathom Five National Marine Park, sunk and used as a dive site. Representatives from the TMA hope this can occur by next fall.
“I wish them well, but I do know that before doing something like that, they will need the blessing of Transport Canada,” Mr. Ham said. “There are over 150 tons of coal in the bunkers, barrels of lubricant in the engine room” and many more contaminants too. “It would need an inspection before it could be moved.”
Mr. Ham said the township effectively, “kicked them out, and I feel very badly about that.”
“The business community of Manitoulin Island threw all kinds of money at it,” he continued. “When we had the door slammed in our face, we had a contract and the vessel was slated to be drydocked and would have been half finished construction by now.” The Society had contacted Purvis Marine in Sault Ste. Marie which agreed to have the Norisle drydocked there to begin work on the Society’s goal of having the Norisle returned to her former glory and, hopefully, ply the Great Lakes once again as a steam-powered passenger ship.
“It’s a sad day when a number of taxpayers have had this happen to them,” Mr. Ham continued, noting the number of supporters the Society had within the municipality. “I’ve been in business a lot of years and I know I wouldn’t slam the door in any customer’s face; that’s just ignorant. The people responsible have got to live with it.”
Mr. Ham said he realizes that something had to happen with the Norisle. “It’s been sitting there since 1974, for goodness sake,” but he said he didn’t want it to happen like this.
When asked about the municipal lawyers’ fees and the cost to taxpayers, Mr. Ham responded, “In my opinion, this could have been totally avoided and need not have happened at all.”
Mr. Ham explained that representatives of the Society, John Coulter and Wayne Fisher, had meetings with Mayor Paul Moffatt and CAO Alton Hobbs on more than one occasion, asking to regain authority to go back on board the ship, but they were turned down each time.
“I think that’s a terrible way to conduct business,” Mr. Ham reiterated. “No business person would ever pull a stunt like that—it’s criminal—but they’re the ones calling the shots.”