Discovery board ready to answer questions

Visitors walk through Petrolia Discovery in 2014. Over the weekend vandals damaged several of the restored buildings at the site.

Dawn Sperling knows people have a lot of questions about Petrolia Discovery and she says the foundation’s board is ready to answer them.

The Petrolia Discovery Foundation is holding its annual general meeting July 29 at 7 pm at the Town Council Chambers in Victoria Hall.

It’s significantly earlier than the last few years when the annual general meetings for the previous year were held almost a year later.

Sperling, the acting chair of the foundation, says the board will discuss the financial problems of 2014 at the meeting a year Sperling admits had “some hurdles.”

The 2014 financial statements are now available and the board is ready to present them to the community. “We used to have our AGM in May but the last couple of years it has been late – now we’re having it when we should,” she says.

The years 2012 and 2013 were not easy for the Discovery. Both years the foundation ran a deficit of between $25,000 and nearly $40,000.

At the time the foundation cited decreased tourism traffic because of the recession and changes at the border. But they also admitted the 20 oil wells on site used to generate revenue weren’t operating at full capacity. At one time, the wells generated $250,000 a year.

In 2012, it was just under $80,000 and in 2013 it was just under $30,000. At the time the board explained the main powerhouse for the field – the Fitzgerald Rig – required extensive repairs. After that, many of the oil wells needed fixing.

The 2014 financial figures are not likely to be a lot better. This spring only five wells were operating and the price of oil began its decline in 2014.

But a lot has changed since then. Sperling and the board have had to navigate through some difficult times after the general manager passed away this spring. Recently, the Discovery Foundation and the Town of Petrolia have forged a new relationship, with the town acting as the historic site’s general manager for the short term.

The new working relationship with the town is only one of the positive changes; the foundation hopes to repair five of the historic oil wells this summer. That will increase much needed revenue at the site.

Sperling says the board understands the community interest at Discovery is high and she’s hoping many people will come out to hear what has been happening. “We will have a report from 2014 and after that any questions there are we will answer them,” she says adding that might take a while. “I know a lot of people have a lot of questions.”