MANITOWANING—The January 15 Assiginack council agenda package included an extensive report titled ‘S.S. Norisle refit project reinstatement’ and was listed as an information item, but was not dealt with by members of council during the meeting. Both Mayor Dave Ham and Councillor Rob Maguire were members of the S.S. Norisle Steamship Society, which hasn’t met in a number of years.
The report, penned by John Coulter, a member of the Steamship Society when it used to meet, begins, “As a result of the S.S. Norisle Steamship Society being able to regain access to Norisle, John Coulter and Wayne Fischer travelled from Toronto and Puslinch during December 27, 28, 29 to attend meetings with Mayor Dave Ham and Councillor Rob Maguire and perform an overview inspection of Norisle.”
“The primary purpose of the inspection was to determine the overall physical condition of Norisle that has evolved during the unfortunate and totally unnecessary lock out of the society since late 2015 and to allow re-engagement of formal relations between the Township of Assiginack and the S.S. Norisle Steamship Society,” the report continued.
“The past three lost years has resulted in a considerable loss of project traction that the society had gained,” the report noted. “It is therefore now incumbent upon the society to regain its strength and commitment in support of its faith in Norisle’s future for the benefit of Manitowaning, Ontario, Canada and future generations.”
As has been previously reported, the Society had sued Assiginack over rights to the aging passenger vessel after plans were made known to scuttle the Norisle as a dive site in Tobermory, which is set to take place as early as fall 2019. Assiginack settled with the Society last year, dropping its counter-claims and offering a cash reimbursement, which the Society agreed to. The amount spent on township lawyers was a hot topic of debate last year, especially during election time.
“There’s not a whole lot to talk about,” said Mayor Ham when contacted for comment. “They spent a couple of days going through the vessel from stem to stern and found the boat in reasonably good condition. We did have a meeting and they were impressed with the shape it was in.”
“What happens next is yet to be determined,” the mayor added. “(The society) would like to explore other avenues such as a total rebuild and may have a conversation with Purvis Shipyard (in Sault Ste. Marie). I feel it’s their ambition to revitalize the Friends (Steamship Society) again.”
When asked if he thought the Norisle would appear on Assiginack council’s agenda in the coming months, Mayor Ham said he thought it would.
The Expositor also reached out to Councillor Rob Maguire who said, “The Norisle, like all other municipal assets, is something we have to look at. Council needs to know what shape she’s in. This report lets us do that.”
The Expositor also contacted Mr. Coulter for comment.
“A decision will be made by council as to next steps,” he said, “as to where we go from here.”