The key word coming out of the third Kinsmen Building advisory panel meeting with members of the community was collaboration.
And people who attended Wednesday's meeting at the Lou Jeffries, Gananoque and T.L.T.I Recreation Centre made it clear the community does not want to see the Kinsmen building demolished or sold.
Four presentations were made during the meeting – to discuss a community services hub model, the possible use of the building as a library and/or seniors' centre, and a presentation was also delivered by Rob Adams, CEO of the YMCA of Eastern Ontario.
In researching other municipalities relative to the catchment area of Gananoque in size and population, the Kinsmen Building advisory panel researched the rural area north of Kingston, the Village of Sydenham and neighbour to the north Storrington Township. They have a community services hub – offering a variety of services, like food services and senior support, centrally located in Sydenham called the Southern Frontenac Community Services Corporation (SFCSC).
To confirm the viability using the model of South Frontenac Community Services Hub with the Kinsmen Building, the advisory panel had discussions with Tina Montgomery, executive director with Community and Primary Health Care (CPHC) in Brockville, and it was determined Gananoque and area is underserviced.
Linda McCauley, a resident of Gananoque and a member of the Kinsmen Building advisory panel, who would like to see the Kinsmen Building used for a community service hub, said Montgomery is interested in exploring the possibility of centralizing services in the Gananoque area.
The South Frontenac Community Services hub has been in operation for 33 years.
The idea is that a similar hub model in Gananoque could be implemented to meet the needs of the community.
After presentations were made, a member of the public asked if the four groups who had presented – the Gananoque Seniors Association, the library, supporters of a hub model and the YMCA, could work together.
"I think we’re going to be exploring that,” McCauley said. "It can be a shared space. We'd like (the building) to be used by the community for community services."
That sits fine with members of the Gananoque Public Library, the YMCA and Gananoque Seniors Association.
Chris McDonald, with the Gananoque Library, said moving the library to the Kinsmen Building could lead to additions to programming, like a community kitchen, food handling courses, nutrition classes, Big Brother Big Sisters or Boys and Girls Club, a meeting space for community groups, a book club meeting space, fitness classes, and youth leadership training, among others.
McDonald added that a multi-use facility would need an effective ongoing administration, which could be provided by the library staff, augmented if necessary. This could include all aspects of facility maintenance and operation, which would avoid this task being placed on town staff.
He also suggested that the facility be operated under a board which would be appointed by council and operate under the Public Libraries Act and the Municipal Act. The Board would be responsible for the preparation of an annual budget, operating and capital, which would be submitted to council for approval.
The Gananoque Public Library currently operates as a semi-autonomous entity, and as such, McDonald said, it can apply for grants and accept donations; he suggested that the board of Kinsman Hall, operating under the Public Libraries Act, could operate in the same way.
Adams, with the YMCA of Eastern Ontario, was pleased with the interested parties, community citizens and volunteers who are wanting to create a hub that provides accessible programs.
"I think the YMCA will play a key role and can play a key role – a collaborator that will be able to deliver programs and services like we do across the region," said Adams.
"No matter what the outcome is, I think what’s a common thread is that it’s going to take collaboration."
Roughly 30 people attended the meeting.
"I'd like to see more community involvement," McCauley said. "I'd like to get the word out there that we are trying to save the building for community and municipal use."
All the presentations came from local members. The question of searching for more options outside of the community was raised, but McCauley shut it down after the meeting.
"I was very discouraged by that," McCauley said, "because the community needs so much, and it wouldn't serve our community to look outside. If we looked outside of the community, then whoever came in would not be serving the community."
The Kinsmen Building advisory panel is comprised of eight community members.
The Kinsmen Community Hall was formerly a day-care centre but now the building is home to the Thousand Islands Youth Boxing Club, which rents half the space.
The boxing club offers youth and adult programming at the Kinsmen building and rents the space from the town for approximately $18,000 a year.
It has been estimated the building could be put on the market for approximately $480,000 based on MPAC's property assessment, according to town CAO Shellee Fournier.
If the panel were to determine that the town should keep but rent out the facility for a non-municipal use, to maintain and repair the property over the next 10 years, the town would need about $85,000 per year, according to a conditions assessment.
The annual capital and operating costs are $101,000, so the facility would have to be rented out for $15 per square foot if the town wanted to break even, but if something less than that was accepted it would be subsidized by taxpayers.
At the April 19 Gananoque council meeting, members decided not to proceed with procuring a geotechnical assessment/shoreline erosion study for the unstable slope identified at the building, at an upset limit of $25,000.
However, council did approve, in principle, the direction of the Kinsmen Building advisory panel to proceed with exploring the option of maintaining the building for municipal use, non-municipal use, or a hybrid thereof.
(Keith Dempsey is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Brockville Recorder and Times. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.)
Keith Dempsey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times