Thursday, March 22, Sabrina Bedford, The Recorder and Times
KEMPTVILLE – It’s been a long time coming, but the old Kemptville College is officially in North Grenville’s hands – and at no cost to the local taxpayer.
A significant partnership with the local french public school board will not only help alleviate part of the $7.7 million price tag for the property, but will also see students in kindergarten to Grade 12 learning on campus starting this fall.
“It’s time to bring back the pride of this 100-year-old facility,” said Brian Carré, chief administrative officer for the municipality of North Grenville, on Thursday.
The transfer of 633 acres of land, including 34 buildings, was confirmed at a press conference in the W.B. George building on campus Thursday where the municipality unveiled the purchase price was $7.7 million – but that no municipal tax dollars will be used to pay for the property.
As part of the announcement Thursday, the Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario (CEPEO) said it has purchased two buildings on campus – the Administration and Rorke buildings – and seven acres of land for $3.7 million. They will begin delivering programming in the fall and join the region’s other three school boards on campus.
The money from that particular sale will be placed in a municipal reserve fund to be spent exclusively on infrastructure renewal and the development and continued sustainability of the campus.
Carré explained the property was appraised at $11 million, but the purchase price was discounted by $3.3 million to “recognize infrastructure deficits and deferred maintenance on the property.
The established purchase price of $7.7 million was further reduced by the $3.7 million purchase from the school board. The balance of the purchase price will be in the form of a $4 million loan to the municipality from Infrastructure Ontario, meaning no municipal tax money will need to go toward buying the property.
The land acquisition does not include the farm land located on the property; it will remain the property of the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario.
After reaching an agreement in principle with the province in November, the sale was made official in late December and will see North Grenville assume ownership of most of the 633-acre campus – a site where the University of Guelph previously delivered agricultural programming – and transform it into an “education and community hub.”
Carré said they want agriculture to once again be a focus on the campus, and they already have plans to start a ‘farm-to-school’ program as well as incorporating agricultural programs within the elementary and secondary programs currently on campus.
Mayor David Gordon said the deal to purchase the campus from the province has been in the works ever since 2014 when the University of Guelph said it would close the Kemptville campus and end academic programs by the end of 2015, citing low enrolment and “inefficient program delivery.”
He said the acquisition was a long time coming and the result of a lot of hard work on behalf of council and the municipality itself.
“If we hadn’t fought every inch to get the campus, it would have been sitting here rotting in the ground because you know how the province works,” he said.
“We had a vision, we didn’t give up, and it’s here today.”
The renewal of the 100-year-old campus will see space re-developed into an “education and community hub focused on education and training, health and wellness, and economic development.”
The operation and maintenance of the renewed campus will be through a not-for-profit corporation, which will operate at arm’s length from the municipality. The mandate for the not-for-profit will be to develop the newly-dubbed ‘Kemptville Campus Education and Community Hub’ as a multi-tenant site.
The board has not yet been established, but Carré said a governance structure for the not-for-profit is estimated to be ready around June.
In the months after the closing announcement, the province hired Lyle Vanclief, a former federal agriculture minister, to study options for the future of the campus.
His report recommended the government negotiate the land sale to North Grenville. A 2016 feasibility study recommended the community and education hub model, and North Grenville began the search for tenants.
The campus renewal has already seen some of the campus land and building infrastructure repurposed. The three other local school boards – the public, Catholic and the French Catholic – operate two elementary schools and two high schools on the campus.
A day care and adult education classes, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Service Ontario are also tenants.
Carré said, however, there has now been “significant interest” from other potential tenants, as well.
The property will officially change hands on March 28.