Council moves ahead with new Campus governance

With the help of a report presented to council at the special meeting last week, the Municipality of North Grenville now has a plan to move forward with the implementation of a new governance structure for the Kemptville Campus.

Council received the report from Strategy Corp, a company hired to look at the Campus governance structure and make suggestions on how the Municipality could reorganize it to better facilitate the realization of the vision set out for the Campus when they acquired the 850 acre property in 2018. The initial Strategic Plan for the College, prepared by BDO, outlined education and training, health and wellness, and economic development as the three pillars of the new organization.

“Fundamentally, it’s such an exciting project that you are trying to realize with the Campus,” Strategy Corp Partner, John Matheson, told council. “It was really a pleasure to be part of thinking about how to take it to the next level.”

By conducting stakeholder interviews, looking at case studies, and assessing the organization’s current structure, Strategy Corp was able to make some recommendations to council about how to move forward. Currently, the board of directors for the Campus only has three members: Mayor Peckford, Deputy Mayor McManaman, and Stéphane Vachon from the CEPEO, the school board that owns about seven acres on the Campus where they have their school, École Rivière Rideau. It was outlined in the presentation that the current size and makeup of the board is not ideal for moving the Campus towards a sustainable future.

“The consensus is that the current board has done an exceptional job,” said Strategy Corp’s Mary Ellen Bench. “But there is also a general consensus that time is short, so we need a new model, and we need to move forward fast to achieve that.”

Strategy Corp’s recommendation was for the creation of an operational board with 7-11 members, with various skills and expertise related to the mandate of the Campus. The board would not include members of council, to facilitate the “arms length” approach to operations that was in the original vision for the organization. The report also recommends that the board does not include representation from tenants of the Campus, as this could create a conflict of interest with decision making.

With an official Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the board would report to council on items like their annual budget. Council would also be involved in appointing the Board Chair and the creation of the Campus Board Plan. While the Campus Executive Director (ED) will be chosen by the board, the report also outlines the importance of communication between the Mayor, Campus ED, the North Grenville CAO, and the Board Chair to facilitate the work that needs to be done for the Campus to become a self-sustaining organization by 2024.

It was also mentioned that council should look at the Campus as a regional facility and go beyond the Municipality when looking to recruit board members. “What you want is sleeves rolled up and action,” John said about the role of the new board.

Council seemed very pleased with the report and relieved that they now have a way forward to bolster the growth of the Kemptville Campus hub. Councillor John Barclay said it will be important to get the right mix of people around the table when it comes to the new board. “I think what we’ve got here is like a how-to manual of how to get things going really quickly and carefully,” he said. Mayor Peckford said she is thrilled to have this report and a way forward that will allow them to run the Campus in a way that is sustainable and accountable to the Municipality and the public. She also mentioned that there have already been some conversations with stakeholders about bringing apprenticeships back to the Campus, which will help further their educational mandate.

“If we can equip a new board with some early success around things like that, it will only serve to build and create further opportunity, especially on the educational and economic development side,” she said. “We’ve got a campus and a facility that, if managed properly, has the potential to just soar.”

The Mayor acknowledged at the meeting that council was having a conversation about the Campus at a time when there is an ongoing dialogue in the community about the correctional facility slated for a site just across the road. CAO Gary Dyke confirmed at the meeting that both the reorganization of the Campus governance structure and the master planning process for the Campus currently underway, is continuing regardless of the province’s announcement. “That information will be fed to the Solicitor General’s office and we’ll adapt as we go forward,” he said. Deputy Mayor McManaman said that, while it was never their vision to have a correctional facility on that piece of land, he is still optimistic about the future of the Campus and its ability to be a thriving part of the community. “Who knows? This institution may advance that as well,” he said. Mayor Peckford agreed that a correctional facility was definitely not on their radar when it came to uses for that property. “That being said, the master planning process has some incredibly exciting ideas encapsulated in it and I think the governance proposal that you’ve outlined is very relevant and very a propos, no matter what is happening with the farm side,” she said.

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