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Published: 4/8/2005

Mayor takes step to reopen museum ship

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The S.S. Willis B. Boyer is tied up at International Park, where it has served as a museum since 1987. The ex-Great lakes freighter was retired in 1980. The S.S. Willis B. Boyer is tied up at International Park, where it has served as a museum since 1987. The ex-Great lakes freighter was retired in 1980.
LONG / BLADE Enlarge

Mayor Jack Ford yesterday assigned two employees from Toledo's parks department to run the S.S. Willis B. Boyer Museum Ship with instructions to reopen the ship to public tours while a full-time director is recruited.

Further, Mr. Ford said he severed the city's connection with the nonprofit group that ran the Boyer since 1991, in part, because of the group's handling of the Tall Ships Toledo event in 2003.

The floating museum has been closed since the unexpected death of the previous director, Edward Goyette, 50, on Feb. 27, from pneumonia.

Mr. Ford and Kattie Bond, the director of parks, recreation, and forestry, said they appointed Gary Kreft as the interim director. Mr. Kreft is acting manager of athletics, recreation, and facilities.

Ms. Bond said Mike Schabeck, marina coordinator, will be on the boat during the hours that it is open to the public - 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Mr. Kreft said he met with Mr. Goyette last year to discuss ways of boosting the number of tourists visiting the ship.

"Ed Goyette was a walking history book of shipping on the Great Lakes," Mr. Kreft said. "He's going to be tough to replace."

Ms. Bond said she is interviewing several candidates, and hopes to have a permanent director within a couple of weeks.

Last year, the ship generated $25,728 in revenue from admission fees and rentals, which paid its operating costs, including the director's salary.

Mr. Ford said he did not seek the advice of the International Park Advisory Board, which he appoints, on how to replace the director.

He said the board's oversight is with the park itself, not the ship, which is tied up at International Park.

And he said he does not regret the decision last April to take over operating the ship from International Park of Greater Toledo Inc.

He said it makes sense to integrate the Boyer into the city's other park operations.

"There were other concerns coming from the Tall Ships festival," Mr. Ford said, without elaborating.

The city broke with International Park of Greater Toledo last April over the nonprofit group's refusal of a city demand for 10 percent of its gross operating revenue from the Boyer.

The break followed a contentious relationship between the mayor's office and the nonprofit group.

The five-day Tall Ships event drew far fewer than the projected number of spectators.

Before the event, the mayor and the park board argued over the city's share of revenue.

After the festival, Mr. Ford requested an audit, which revealed the unsolved theft of $1,000 in cash and the hiring of too many off-duty police officers as security.

Jerome German, a member of the nonprofit organization, defended the Tall Ships festival.

"It was a tremendously successful event; we just didn't happen to make any money," Mr. German said.

Mr. German said the nonprofit group was successful in gathering volunteers to run the Boyer.

The Boyer, built in 1911, was a bulk freighter on the Great Lakes until its retirement in 1980. It opened as a floating museum tied up at International Park in 1987.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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