2012-09-20 / Front Page

Chief Engine Now To Be Restored

By Martha Stuit

One of three engines from the old railroad ferry, Chief Wawatam, will be sold for $1 to a preservation group, Friends of the Chief Wawatam, and not sold for scrap, as had been proposed two weeks ago. Action to sell the 65-ton steam engine was taken by the St. Ignace City Council at its meeting Monday, September 17, at the request of Doug Taylor and Chuck Cullip, who plan to move the engine from the Mill Slip to a another site and preserve it.

Council also heard the results of the city manager evaluations, reviewed a job description for the assessor, authorized a payment for work on the Reagon Street lift station, and granted two special event requests for the first weekend in October.

Mr. Cullip and Mr. Taylor plan to clean, sandblast, and paint the engine with the hope of eventually moving it to the waterfront for display.

“We’ve decided to take this and run with it,” Mr. Taylor told The St. Ignace News after the meeting.

The two men are forming the new nonprofit preservation group, which will own the engine and move it from the Arnold Line property to Mr. Cullip’s business, The Feed Station, on US-2, according to a letter they sent to the city council. Arnold Line will use its boat travel lift to move the engine onto a truck, and private donations will fund the restoration, said Mr. Taylor.

“It won’t be any cost to us. They’re going to move it,” City Manager Les Therrian told council members.

In an e-mail to The St. Ignace News, Mr. Taylor said the group hopes to offer the renovated engine back to the city for $1 and also donate a building in which to store it.

Councilman William LaLonde said an agreement is necessary to sell the engine. A contract being drafted will give the city first right to buy back the engine if Friends of the Chief Wawatam choose not to continue with the project.

While the city would have received $15,000 to $20,000 to scrap the engine, council members said they preferred to let the group try to save it. The city has no funds to preserve it, Mr. Therrian told The St. Ignace News, and Arnold Transit has asked that it be removed from the Mill Slip.

The contract will prevent the group from turning around and selling the engine for scrap. Because the group will be working on the engine, the city needs to transfer ownership to relinquish its liability in the event someone gets hurt.

“If you can preserve something like that, considering we didn’t have the wherewithal to do it, somebody else can, I think it’d be a good thing,” said Councilman Jim Clapperton.

The 1911 engine is one of three originally installed in the Chief Wawatam car ferry. One has been scrapped and the third engine is on display as a working model at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum at Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

“I think we owe it to them to try it…see if it will work,” said Mr. Therrian of the plan to save it.

The engine must be moved by October 1, but Mr. Cullip and Mr. Taylor might move it as soon as the end of this week, said Mr. Therrian.

Mr. Therrian will continue as city manager for the second year of his two-year contract following a good review from the city council.

“It’s unanimous,” Mayor Paul Grondin announced. “The city manager has received satisfactory evaluation.”

The Negotiations Committee used to review evaluations in past years, but Mr. Grondin summarized the individual council surveys this year. He gave no details, and said city attorney Charles Brown has yet to determine whether the evaluations can be made available to the public.

A job description for a city assessor is in the works, said Mr. Therrian. The range of pay, to be determined, will be between $10 to $18 a parcel, contingent on the person’s level of experience. The individual will work under contract and will receive an office in City Hall and mileage for driving to properties. The city will be looking for someone with at least three years of experience and will require the person to be available to the public at City Hall four hours a week. Mr. Therrian said he will advertise the job by the end of September.

A public hearing to discuss the city’s five-year recreation plan for 2012 to 2016 will be Monday, October 1, at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.

In other discussions, the city council said it would like to see a financial report for the Fort de Buade Museum before the city’s contract with Michilimackinac Historical Society expires October 31. This is the sixth and final year that the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians has funded the purchase of the museum building and its operations, and the city is hopeful that the facility can be self-supporting. The city now owns the building.

Council also approved two special events requests. Autumn Apple Days and Pumpkin Roll will be Saturday, October 6, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The Great Waters Festival, a new event, is scheduled for Saturday, October 6, and Sunday, October 7, at the St. Ignace Municipal Marina.

Councilmen Tom Della-Moretta and Paul Fullerton were absent from the meeting.

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