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More big council mergers coming?

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Yah, every year around this time I meet up with an old friend and gold-tab scouter who comes into the area to visit family for a special event or reunion that they have about now. Gives us a good excuse to catch up and share scoutin' tales.


Talkin' to him over brunch this mornin', we got to chatting about the Michigan Area 2 project, since we're both Central Region fellows. Folks here might know this past year there was an effort to merge all the councils in Central Region Area 2 (Michigan) into one Greater Michigan Council, which got approved in the fall and has been in process. He was describin' how much investment national was makin' in the new effort, includin' big costs in database reconfigurations and other efforts to accommodate this new structure, as well as some significant changes to the professional development / promotion pathways for executives to match the new configuration. As some of yeh may know that stuff tends to be the prime mover behind a lot of executive action. I was curious about that since it seems like a lot of effort for a one-off.


Turns out that National is not seeing the Area 2 Project as a one-off, but as a strong model for the future. Most of us here know that Irving has been quietly encouraging council mergers for some time, but typically only between two councils here, two councils there sort of thing like the recent Kentucky merger. The apparent success of da Michigan effort which merged 9 councils all at once has opened their eyes to new possibilities, and the exec from Area 2 (who came from Massachusetts I believe, where council mergers and camp closings were also a topic) is seen as a rising star. The Michigan model is being seen as a much faster and more effective way to consolidate operations.


So word on the street is that National is settin' up to try to scale this up by pushing for a test-case Area-wide merger in each of the Regions. They figure if they can get this goin' in multiple areas of the country it will give 'em more information and become a snowball sort of thing. Right now he's thinkin' that the likely places for big multi-council mergers are:



New Jersey (Area 5) or

New England seacoast of Maine/New Hampshire/Massachusetts (Area 1)



Florida (Area 4) or

Oklahoma/Arkansas (Area 8)



Northern California & Nevada (Area 3) or

the Southwest States (Area 6) without the Hawaiian folks.


The guess is that for legal and other reasons there might be an advantage to the state-boundaries thing, so merging all of Florida into one council and all of Northern California seems like the most attractive in those two areas, with Northeast being the test case for a cross-state merger (cross-state mergers are a bit harder because the council corporations are incorporated in different states, which takes a bit more work).


The plan is that they're currently layin' the groundwork with the regional and area execs, with an intention to do the same sort of fast-blitz of the volunteers that was done in Michigan to get approval without providin' a whole lot of details on things that get people's dander up (like which camps will be kept and which sold, which service centers will be closed and all that stuff). Roll out looks like it might be pretty quick.


So could be by this particular day next year, we'll be seein' the same sort of statewide merger votes in Florida, northern California and New Jersey that we saw in Michigan last fall. Or maybe some other cockamamie notion. :)


I'm curious if folks volunteerin' in these places have heard anything yet about these plans? Or any other amusin' changes comin' down the pike for that matter.





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Not sure about any of these, but I do know that it appears inter-state mergers will take some time. For example, take Bay-Lakes (Appleton, WI (NE WI)) and Hiawathaland (Marquette, MI (UP of MI)). Both council boards have approved merger initiated by Hiawathaland (which didn't want to get involved in Area 2 merger). Now the two are waiting to get through the two states' processes of approval to combine legally. This is an extremely large area now, and if it were combined with the rest of WI, that would be an extremely large council!


Just an example



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When you say National sees the "apparent success of the Michigan effort" to what are they referring? Just their ability to ram it through the council exec boards?


Because it was being sold to us in Ohio as all about a way to increase membership not about cost savings, so they can't see it as a success unless and until they can point to real increases in membership over previous expectations --- and they had some very specific projections they were convinced would result from the new structure.


On the ground, I've heard from friends in the mitten state that what they're seeing in terms of projected service center and camp closings is not making them happy and is not what they thought they were buying into. That's a very strange definition of success.



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Got an email on Thursday announcing a new SE for the Great Lakes Council, part of the Area 2 merger. One of the key points we were told before the merger was that we'd have lots less high administration and more DE's. Well now there hiring a new SE for a council that isn't supposed to exist anymore. So where is the reduction in top executive staff happening? More lies about how the merger was supposed to happen and the benefits we were supposed to see.


So far the wonderful unified Michigan council has instituted a fee for signatures for volunteering at the national/regional levels, proposed that all contingent members attending national,regional events pay an added fee, and proposed adding that fee to high adventure trips sponsored by the council. The fee is a $155 FOS payment, no FOS no signature no trip.


National council was here this weekend looking at the camps in the northern lower pennisula. Speculation is they are assessing for camp closures. Since a majority of Michigan's BS summer camps are within 50-100 miles of each other in the northern LP and don't run capacity programs each summer that by next summer many will no longer run camp at all. Thought is why have several half/3/4 full camps when you can have fewer packed camps. National council folks were here to offer thoughts on which ones to keep running and which ones to close or change purposes of.


Concenus of the regular average Joe scouter in teh area is that BSA is trying to drive us out of business in the state of Michigan. More fees, less access to camps, fewer services centers and stores further away from the scouting population. So far we haven't seen anything about increasing membership, only new ways to stick it to the current membership.


Too bad the only snow job in this state was by the BSA this fall/winter. I missed my skiing trip for lack of real snow.

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"He was describin' how much investment national was makin' in the new effort ..."


Yes, but will National make the same investments in the other councils/areas?


I'd also question how one can gauge "apparent success" based on a project that's still in progress.

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In the Puget Sound country of western Washington, there are three councils.


Chief Seattle Council is in the middle and headquartered in Seattle. Mt Baker Council is at the north end and headquartered in Everett, Wa 30 miles north of Seattle.


Pacific Harbors Council is South and headquartered in Tacoma, 30 miles south of Seattle.


At present all three councils are reasonably prosperous and successful. I don't see any particularly good reasons for messing with success.


I wouldn't be surprised if some of the councils is the rural eastern half of the state are having serious issues, but there isn't much Scouting contact across the mountains in my experience.

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My thoughts.


1) Why there are theoretical savings in regards to reducing the duplication of staff, services, and unfortunately camps, it will increase in other monetary and non-monetary costs. Travel expenses will increase as you will have to drive all over the place in a $4+/gallon gas economy. Also think about morale and staff turnover: we lost a DD because he had to cover a territory that was 6 or 7 counties large for several months while we were without DEs. Long story short, the amount of time spent on the road took it's toll and he quit. Let's face it you put over 100K miles on your 10 or 11 month old car.


2) Volunteers will not be happy. With the reduction of service centers and camps, that will increase travel times to pick up awards, have meetings for events, pick up equipments, and the most important thing GO CAMPING. I see camp year round use dropping as council camp will be further away as they close. I see council events dropping in attendance as people won't drive the longer distances, esp. with $4+/gallon gas.


Heck I know it will affect year round use. We have a local camp within 22 minutes. At the district event this weekend several SMs have said they will be encouraging their units to camp more at the local camp instead of driving longer distances to other camp b/c of the cost of gas. Heck a few units mentioned using the nature preserve that juts outside city limits since it is a 5-10 minute drive, and that is city driving, no highways.


And then you will have those folks who will refuse to participate with anything withthe new council b/c they are upset.


I admit I can see mergers happening and succeeding, but not on the area 2 scale.



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I'm not as negative, but I understand scouting is very personal.


Our local councils merged about six years ago. There was concern about service and camp closings. But, I really can't see any bad results. Has it saved money? Not a clue. But, we now have three registrars in the new council where in the past each had two. Yes, one less, but it makes life much more managable on the registrars. We still have two council offices and I've used both. Those with prevously long drives to the offices still have long drives. That hasn't changed much.


But the good part is zero camps have closed. Zero scout shops have closed. Instead, we have three more camps (from the other council) available for our use. We have more special events and they are bigger. Cub camps share training and planning.


I think the big benefit is that the council can afford to fully staff roles that were not big enough for a single person before. For example, we have more IT resources and they've been able to produce much more.


Perhaps in the pre-computer & pre-internet days, smaller councils were easier to manage. Now though, economics of scale are just too hard to argue against.



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True, but I see National expanding its role by taking advantage of those economies of scale, such as making increasing amounts of training available on line.


The "Best Practices" portion of My Scouting.org is kind of a national Roundtable.


Keeping track of unit visits by Commissioners through the Unit Visitation Tracking Service!


And so on. I imagine we will see more of the same.(This message has been edited by seattlepioneer)

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I'm glad it's been positive for you. I know when the GSUSA went from several councils in NC to 3, unit service from them decreased, volunteers are not as active, and they did sell off several camps, which ticked off a lot of volunteers.


Worse think it did for BSA is just prior to selling off the camps, they logged them. When it was announced that the local camp was going to be logged, those folks with expereinces with the GSUSA freaked out about the camp being sold. When that is not happening.


An aside; just came back form the camp last nite. While I was initially in shock of the amount of cutting, when I started walking around I realized A) it wasn't as bad as folks said it would be and B) it actually opened up areas that were so overgrown with brush, they were not only inaccessible, but fire hazards.

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Re: Northern California


There are already plans in the work for a 2-council merger in the Bay Area. See http://www.boyscoutmerger.org/ for all the publicly available info. What's being presented is that the prime driver of the merger would be cost savings, which would lead to more DEs and field staff being hired with the cost savings.


I could certainly see some more consolidation above and beyond that, though. If the above merger goes through, there are still 9 councils withing a 50 mile drive of my house in the east bay.

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Wheres the cost savings?????


More DE's more cost????? More driving More More More......



What cost is saved????? Please enlighten me.


Went to the above website it is complete Bull Pucky. One of the benefits listed is the ability to attend more different camps.....how is that a change we can attend them now......



It flat doesn't make sense....


(This message has been edited by Basementdweller)

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