A warm November morning greeted rural residents as they made their way to the inaugural North Grenville Rural Summit this past Saturday. Fittingly hosted at the former Kemptville College, the summit was an attempt to reach out to the rural residents of North Grenville and provide information to them about municipal services. Thanks to the vision of councillor Jim Bertram and his desire to see more input into municipal activities from rural residents, the summit came to life this past year and will now take place every two years.
CAO Brian Carre opened the summit with an introductory greeting and talked about the day’s proceedings, then MPP Steve Clark said a few words of welcome and thanked everyone for coming. Katie Nolan, who is our local representative from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, was the keynote speaker and told the assembled group of approximately fifty residents about the role of OMAFRA and the tools and programs they use to help municipalities improve the lives of rural residents.
Deputy Clerk Katie Valentin was the next speaker and outlined to everyone the different ways that the municipality attempts to communicate with residents. Clerk Cahl Pominville followed right after and gave a sometimes humorous presentation about the process the municipality uses to make decisions.
The rest of the morning was divided up into six separate twenty-minute breakout sessions, where each municipal department made presentations. Each department had its own dedicated room, and residents rotated from room to room so that they had a chance to see each presentation with a five-minute break in between. The presentations were made by the directors in charge of each department, with the councillors who chaired that department also in attendance. The scope and responsibilities of each department were covered, but, more importantly with such a short amount of time, it was sometimes difficult to answer all of the questions that residents had before the next session was scheduled to start and a whole new group of residents came in.
After a quick lunch of soup and sandwiches in the cafeteria of the former Kemptville College, for those who signed up there was a guided bus tour of the rural areas of the municipality. Municipal staff and knowledgeable local residents were on hand to provide background information, key points of interest and insight as the bus wound its way through rural North Grenville.
Walking from Parish Hall where the summit took place to the cafeteria for lunch, there were several reminders about both the shadow and sunlight that the former Kemptville College represents for North Grenville. It’s a reminder about how vibrant and important it was in the past, but is now dark and silent. But it also is a reminder about the possibilities for a very bright future as you walk by some great facilities like the animal research laboratory, the food science building and, of course, a modern commercial kitchen in the cafeteria.
Overall, the residents seemed mostly satisfied with the summit, despite a lack of understanding going into it about what it really was. Hopefully, in two years it’ll grow to be a full-day event, so that there’s more time for two-way communication, and so more content can be added to really pique the interest of, and to attract, more rural residents. More specific information on subjects like agricultural innovations, local food opportunities, green energy alternatives and also location specific historical information would certainly help. Special thanks should go to the economic development staff for organizing this important event.

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