Town to manage Discovery for short term

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The Town of Petrolia and Petrolia Discovery will take a page from the past to rebuild for the future.

The town has agreed to temporarily manage the historic site and Discovery will welcome a town councilor to its board for the first time in nearly a decade.

The Discovery Foundation is in rebuilding mode after the death of its long-time general manager right before the tourist season began. The board reached out to talk with the town about what could be done and after several meetings formally asked town council for help Monday.

“We would like to ask that the Town of Petrolia assume a management role on an interim basis,” reads the resolution from the foundation board.

“The Petrolia Discovery Foundation agrees to provide the town with full authority to manage, on an interim basis, their affairs with full disclosure and transparency from both parties regarding all transactions past and future. All future decisions will be approved by Discovery and Council.”

Mayor John McCharles says the role town staff will play at the site will be determined after they have had a chance to look at the books. “Until you get your financial house in order, you really can’t do anything else,” he said after town council unanimously approved the plan.

Dawn Sperling, the acting chair of the foundation who was in the audience at the time, says the town has been nothing but supportive as they try to move forward.

“They’re going to look over our financials and give us a short term plan,” says Sperling adding a previous business plan developed with the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation  when a long-term loan was secured may be part of that.

Sperling adds the town’s marketing and financial staff will also lend Discovery board a hand by spreading the word about the site and applying for government grants.

Some of that is already happening. The town and Petrolia Heritage helped Discovery produce and deliver marketing materials to other tourist sites.

Sperling says in the long term, another general manager will likely be hired for the site, but this is an important step to keep the operation running smoothly in the interim.

And Sperling says the community is stepping forward as well. Last weekend’s classic car show was a success with people offering donations to help.

And there have been offers to help at the site. “There are oilmen willing to help get the oil wells up and running,” she says. Right now only seven of the 20 wells are working. “There is lots of work to do there.”