On May 12 there will be a vote to determine whether or not to merge the Theodore Roosevelt and Suffolk County Councils of Boy Scouts. This proposal to join the two councils is expected to be approved by Nassau but has met some opposition in Suffolk.
The Theodore Roosevelt Council, formerly known as the Nassau County Council and the Suffolk County Council are the only two councils of the Boy Scouts of America on Long Island. According to Trip McMillan, the Scout executive for the Theodore Roosevelt Council, this plan to merge the two councils into one has been in the works since 1993.
In 1993 the two councils determined that they should consider joining together. McMillan stated that merging smaller councils into one large council has become a national trend, reducing the number of councils from over 1,000 down to 320. He explained, "We find that bigger councils are generally healthier, provide a better program, don't have the ups and downs with the economic times as the small councils, are able to weather economic storms, and are ultimately able to give a better program to kids."
The merger committee first met in July 1993. They then spent 13 months doing an extensive merger review and in August 1994 published a full document recommending how the whole merger should be put together.
When the merger committee came back with their recommendations both the Nassau and Suffolk County Councils were facing serious problems. Some of those problems included financial, programmatic, and administrative issues. According to McMillan, "The board determined that it was probably not the right time to merge, that both boards ought to get busy and solve some of those problems and that when we put it together, we want to put together two strong councils because that tends to work the best." McMillan explained that the board is made up of top civic and community leaders.
In Nassau County the Boy Scouts has undergone many changes since 1994. On Sept. 1, 1997 the Nassau County Council of Boy Scouts became the Theodore Roosevelt Council. Previously there was a council in Arizona by that name but the name became available when that council merged with another. The Nassau County Council, known by that name for 80 years, changed the name to honor Roosevelt, the only president from Long Island who is also the founder of Scouting on Long Island. The council also relocated about a year and a half ago and is now run out of Massapequa.
Since the board made that determination in 1994 both councils have significantly increased in strength and the board feels that now is the time to act on this merger.
On May 12 two different groups will vote on the merger. According to the Boy Scout Rules and Regulations the first group that can vote is made up of one representative from every community organization that uses the program such as the Catholic Church, Methodist Church, Jewish Synagogue, etc. Each one of those organizations has one vote, and are represented in the Boy Scout Council by their chartered organization representative. The second group that has a vote is the council members at large who are elected by the Boy Scout Council at their annual meeting. The board of directors of the Theodore Roosevelt Council voted to make the recommendation to merge the councils with a vote of 38-0.
McMillan stated, "We believe, very much that it will pass in Nassau County but there is some opposition to it in Suffolk County that we are encountering." This merger would affect 33,000 children across Long Island.
The Theodore Roosevelt Council, according to McMillan, really believes that the merger will have a positive impact on the children involved. Although the average Boy Scout may not recognize the difference right away, over the long term, McMillan said, the benefits to the Scouts will be noticeable.
One of the main benefits to the Scouts would be that the administrative costs would be reduced, thus allowing more money to go into the actual Scouting programs. One of the things that is planned, if the merger is approved, would be to have more executives in the individual districts working with the units in those districts. The two councils are currently divided into 10 divisions, which are then divided into 50-60 units. The executives would be brought down to the district level, organizing new troops, training leaders, camping at the camporees, organizing the programs and supporting the individual troops. McMillan explained, "A key part of this plan is to get more district executives out in the field so that we're directly providing service to our units."
The new council, if approved, would be run out of the Massapequa office and be called the Theodore Roosevelt Long Island Council. It has already been decided that McMillan would remain Scout executive for the merged council. The Long Island Council, besides the Massapequa office, would also run a satellite office in eastern Suffolk County. McMillan explained that the current Medford office would most likely be closed because they would not need as much space for that office but that they would open a smaller office, most likely also in Medford. The satellite service center will be a full service office, open five days a week and will offer a full Scout store where Scouts from Suffolk County could buy their badges, equipment, and uniforms. There are also Scout stores in Massapequa and Mineola.
"We really believe that the best way to get our program to kids, as we move into the new millennium, is by one Long Island council. We think it will be far more effective and it will offer much better programs and services," McMillan concluded. "Our bottom line is to teach young people values and character and leadership skills and we think we can have a greater effect on more kids, reach their values, and help make them into the kind of young people we want to see better by having a merged council."