Scout House receives $1 million city backing
by Mark McDermott
The City Council on Tuesday night pledged $1 million towards the construction of a new Scout House and senior community center, a move intended to spur fundraising for the public-private partnership the city has formed with the non-profit Friends of Senior & Scout Community Center.
“Any time you get a brand new building — and we will control 50 percent of it for our use, on our property — we are ahead of the game,” said Councilperson Richard Montgomery.
“It’s an historic opportunity,” said Councilperson David Lesser.
The non-profit, which estimates the total cost of building a new, 7,000 sq. ft. Scout House at between $3.1 and $3.7 million, had requested $1 million from the city as well as the waiving of $445,000 in so-called “soft costs” and in-kind services associated with the building — including plan checks, inspections, engineering, and construction management.
Julie Justus McGinity, a board member for Friends of the Scout House, said that while the non-profit has raised $1.2 million toward the project already, the city’s contribution was necessary to validate the project and raise the remaining money needed. She thanked the council for their encouragement for the group’s effort “to rebuild the 66-year-old scout house and create a groundbreaking intergenerational community facility” but said the time had come to allocate funds.
“Your contribution is a vital signal to donors and will create needed momentum for us to finish fundraising by June 2020,” she said, adding that the city would receive significant benefits justifying the waiving of soft costs and in-kind fees. “We respectfully remind the council this is a city-owned building. These are city costs for overhead and city employees to own a city project that will host city-sponsored programs for well over half of its daily usage.”
But Councilperson Nancy Hersman, who said she’s been a scout leader for 16 years, expressed concern that the project was outside the city’s regularly planned capital improvement process and that allocating a full million plus the soft costs would require the city to tap into its economic uncertainties fund. She also noted the original agreement with the non-profit didn’t require any cash contributions from the city.
“I hate to be the Grinch in the group, and it’s not because I don’t love scouting,” Hersman said.
“You will be hitting the economic uncertainties fund,” said Steve Charelian, the city’s acting finance director, in response to Hersman’s queries. “The unreserved [funds] will be gone.”
Montgomery crafted a compromise motion that committed the city to contributing a million total, including the costs the Friends had hoped to be waived, which won unanimous support from his colleagues.
“It’s time for us to make a commitment,” said Councilperson Amy Howorth.
Councilperson Steve Napolitano noted that the city was so cash-strapped when it bought what became the Marine fields that it had to borrow to do so. He said this opportunity was likewise too good to pass up.
“The Scout House sucks right now,” he said. “It needs improvement…It served its purpose well; it doesn’t serve it anymore. We have the opportunity here to create a space for both not just the scouts, but for youth in general, as well as seniors. And that combination is a strong one because we have been giving short shrift, in some sense, to both groups.”