The Manuels River Natural Heritage Society held its 21st annual meeting on Sunday afternoon.
It was a typical AGM, with the usual presentation of a chair’s report, financial statements and an election of officers.
What was not typical is that it was the board’s first meeting in its new multimillion-dollar centre, a major change from meetings held in the little chalet across the street.
The other difference is that there is a major change in the board of directors that runs the society and the new centre that opened in July.
The $7 million Manuels River Hibernia Interpretation Centre was built with funding from the federal, provincial and municipal governments, the Hibernia Management Development Corp., the business community and private donors. Another major source of funding — as well as significant support throughout the fundraising, planning, construction and now operations — is the Rotary Club of Avalon Northeast.
Four members of that club were elected to the society’s board of directors during the annual general meeting. Doug Russell, Donald Sword, Mike Sisco and Dave Works will join the board for a two-year term.
The club, and especially members Russell and Sword, played major roles in the Manuels River project fundraising and took on many other responsibilities as part of their club’s commitment to the initiative. They were joined by two other new members, Sandra Baggs, a former Conception Bay South councillor, and Andrea Goose, who assisted with the fundraising for the new centre.
The society also lost four board members, including two long-standing members who also served on the executive for many years. Corinne LeDrew, who served as vice-chair, and Barbara Fitzgerald, who served as secretary, both did not seek re-election.
During his annual report, chairman Gary Gallagher also announced he was staying on the board but not interested in seeking re-election as chair. Gallagher led the society during the past five years when the new building planning began and the society formed a partnership with the Rotary Club to pursue the building.
With the loss of three of the society’s executive members, there will be obvious changes to the key roles in the board. It is unusual for a board of directors to lose three key executive members at one time, so with a new executive there will be an adjustment period for the board as well as the staff managed by the board of directors.
The six new members will join the eight existing members of the Society, many of whom are long-term members such as Nancy Bennett, Jan Spracklin, Elizabeth Young, Pat Sword and Cynthia Brown.
Gallagher presented a financial report for the year ending Oct. 31, which showed that the society’s first year with the new building operating for just under four months, recorded an operating deficit of just over $32,000.
He noted that they have committed funding of $7.3 million for the centre. The society had to borrow close to $900,000 to complete the building and hopes to have it repaid in two to three years. Gallagher said the repayments would come from the committed multi-year donor funding, tax rebates and revenue generated from the new centre’s facility rentals, admissions, gift shop sales, education programs and special events.
He also noted that HMDC has provided $840,000 over a four-year period for a program to introduce young children to science, and that funding helps with the program costs as well as offsets some of the cost of staff salaries, which last year were over $200,000.
For more information on the new centre, visit their website at www.manuelsriver.com.
Joan Butler is a lifelong resident of Kelligrews,
Conception Bay South. She can be reached by email