by Deron Johnson
On Monday May 27, North Grenville Municipal Council held their first Public Discussion Forum at the W.B. George Centre on the Kemptville Campus. “The Future of the Kemptville Campus” seemed like a perfect choice of subject matter for this first meeting, as it’s been on the mind of many people since the Municipality of North Grenville bought it from the Agriculture Research Institute of Ontario in 2018.
The meeting began with Tom Graham of TD Graham and Associates (who have been contracted to deliver the Kemptville Campus Marketing and Communications Strategy) introducing the first speaker for the meeting, North Grenville Mayor Nancy Peckford. Mayor Peckford started off by mentioning that the meeting was the first of a series of Town Hall meetings that the new council has initiated to engage with the community, solicit feedback and give residents a sense of where council is headed. She also made a point of reflecting on the importance of the Kemptville Campus by saying that “from the day that we (the new council) took office, the campus has been a significant priority for us”. The mayor further outlined what the future of the governance that will oversee the campus may look like, some of the conversations that have taken place with current and potential stakeholders and some of the vision for the future use of the campus, including additional educational opportunities, business incubation initiatives and agricultural-focused activities.
A presentation made by North Grenville CAO Brian Carre, provided the financial details of the deal to purchase the campus. Brian advised the room of over one hundred people that the municipality was only one of thirty groups who expressed an interest in the campus. Though the market value of the property was assessed at $11 million in 2015, the final net purchase price was $4 million (minus deferred underground maintenance costs and a forgivable loan from the provincial government). The $4 million was financed through a loan with Infrastructure Ontario and was intended to be entirely repaid through revenues collected at the campus.
The latter part of the meeting was then opened up for residents to ask questions, make comments or bring ideas forward. One of the ideas brought forward included the creation of a climate change museum as suggested by Dr. Fred Scheuler who, along with his wife Aleta Karstad, have extensive data on the environmental history of North Grenville. Local resident Herb Cloutier suggested establishing a music education hub for schools, children and the whole community. He added that an instrument lending library and training program to teach people how to play could be part of it. Nancy Curtis suggested an agricultural museum be built on campus at Purvis Hall.
To close the meeting, Mayor Peckford thanked everyone for attending, for their ideas and comments and for their patience. She also expressed the new council’s gratefulness for being given some time to get oriented with what she calls “this incredibly important part of what North Grenville is doing and to the future of not just our community, but to Eastern Ontario. We really want to do it right and do it well and have the community along with us every step of the way”.