Progress Builds Toward New Council Service Center

26/08/2023
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As part of the Council’s effort to periodically communicate with everyone in our Council on the status of several key initiatives involving our service centers and the sale of “buffer acreage” at Camp Tuckahoe to the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy, I have some news to share with everyone.

First, as we previously shared last year, the Executive Board has been looking at different approaches regarding the Mechanicsburg and York service centers. Few councils have multiple service centers and Scout Shops, and in the same way that other businesses learned during the pandemic, we saw our need for office and retail space evolving. Units can now do more business with the Council electronically, dramatically decreasing the need for people to come to our offices. The same can be said for purchasing Scouting merchandise through online services like Scoutshop.org or Amazon. We expect that trend to continue toward more transactions occurring electronically rather than in person at a Council office.

Second, our Council’s contribution to resolving the Boy Scouts of America’s bankruptcy proceedings was $2.7 million, which required us to use $1.2 million from unrestricted funds we had received from the sale of Wizard Ranch to the Lancaster Conservancy in 2020, supplemented by a $1.5 million interest-only loan to be repaid within three years. This is a significant financial commitment for our Council. The investment earnings from the Wizard Ranch fund provided dollars for capital projects at Hidden Valley and Tuckahoe, and soon, the loan must also be repaid. In other words, paying off the loan and replenishing the Wizard Ranch fund is a huge financial deal.

Looking at all these factors, our Executive Board has a fiduciary responsibility to carefully consider the best use of all our assets, including our properties. Our two current service centers in Mechanicsburg and York are valuable financially, especially with their locations. These buildings have served us well over the years, and having two National Scout Shops has been a blessing. But the reality is that we don’t fully utilize all the square footage in our two office buildings, and keeping both buildings just for the Scout Shops doesn’t make financial sense.

Through the Board’s discussions over time, a proposal to sell both current service centers and renovate the original dining hall at Camp Tuckahoe to serve as the Council’s new unified service center emerged. Tuckahoe is in the center of our Council geographically, straddling the Cumberland and York counties border, and the historic dining hall dating back to 1948 is a solid structure. Still, time and Mother Nature take a toll on buildings, and it would need much attention to prevent the building from reaching a point of no return.

The confluence of all these considerations led to the Executive Board deciding that this proposal was the best course of action. At this month’s Executive Committee meeting, the Council’s officers approved the first step – beginning the process of selling the York Service Center. Rock Commercial Real Estate in York was selected as the listing agent, and Rock is actively marketing the building now. There is no way other than guessing how long it will be before we discontinue operations from the York Service Center, but now that this decision has been made, we certainly hope that things will progress quickly.

Once we move out of the York service center, we’ll consolidate our operations out of the Mechanicsburg service center until our new service center at Tuckahoe is completed. Once the new service center is ready, the Mechanicsburg service center will also be sold.

On a parallel track, the Council engaged Rich Gribble, an architect with By Design Consultants in Camp Hill, to design our new service center, including a retail store operated by the Council. From the very start, our goal was to create a centralized, modern, efficient workspace for the Council’s staff and volunteers and to preserve the historic character of Tuckahoe’s original dining hall. Rich has been a great work partner in this process, and I think he’s done a great job of putting those aspirations into an actual design plan. I’m happy to share some of Rich’s renderings to provide a sense of what is planned.

We are currently obtaining bids for the construction of the new service center, and we plan to announce the general contractor selection this fall.

Finally, the work toward divesting a 916-acre parcel of “buffer acreage” at Tuckahoe to the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy has continued. The Conservancy has secured funding commitments for the eventual purchase, and we are currently working through the due diligence phase of the project with them, which includes surveys, titles, subdivision plans, legal work, etc. The appraised market value of the land to be divested is $2.29 million.

As I wrote last year, this deal with the Conservancy represents an excellent opportunity for Scouting. It allows us to preserve the land being sold, with no possibility of future development encroaching on the parts of Tuckahoe we actively use while unlocking its financial value for Scouting’s use, with passive recreational access for the public to hike, bike, or perhaps hunt.

All these components create a solid but complicated pathway forward. At the end of this process, we hope (based on their appraised values) that the sale of these assets will be sufficient to cover the costs of the new service center at Tuckahoe and generate additional funds to pay off the loan and replenish the Wizard Ranch fund for the total amount of our bankruptcy contribution. From a cash flow perspective, the timing is quite challenging, as the money for construction must come from selling these assets.

Change is always challenging. Our constant focus is looking for ways to strengthen our Council’s ability to support our local Scouting units and the youth we serve. We know our camps are especially critical in that effort. The financial challenges we currently face are genuine. But we’ve developed an excellent plan that addresses the economic reality while repositioning our Council for better days ahead.

I appreciate you reading this article to better understand our Board’s thinking and direction. Our work is ongoing, and I’ll provide updates as things progress.

Yours in Scouting,

Ron Gardner
Scout Executive & CEO

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