Author Avatar

Issue 555 – January 9, 2018

I’m a Merit Badge Counselor for COMMUNICATIONS. I regularly get four types of inquiries, in this order: (1) Emails or texts from Scouts, (2) Phone calls from a parent (99% his Mom), and (3) Phone calls from Scouts. This order is important. It demonstrates that between 67%and 75% of Scouts (and their parents) know doodley-squat about communications.

When a Scout sends a counselor an email or text, he puts that counselor in complete “control.” I can respond, of course, but I can also ignore the email/text completely, or take my own sweet time getting back to the Scout.

My own typical response to emails or texts about merit badge counseling—usually a tad more polite than this—is: Pick up the bloody phone! When Mom calls, my response is always: Ask your son to pick up the phone all by himself.

But when a Scout has the smarts to track down my phone number and call me, now he is in control…and what Scout-minded volunteer would dodge or say no to a Scout who’s right there, on the phone!

Now here’s the Bigger Idea… This doesn’t just apply to Scouts and merit badges; it’s universal. If you want results, use the oldest technology you can find. Why? Because there’s an inverse relationship between “tech” and “touch”…and results! (To learn more about what I mean about tech-and-touch, get yourself a Communications Merit Badge Counselor—do it now.)
(Written in mid-December 2017…)

Dear Andy,

My Scoutmaster has been away recently for work, and our end of the year court of honor is coming up. I have all the requirements I need for Life rank except for the Scoutmaster conference and then board of review. The thing is, my Scoutmaster and I have talked before about my position as Patrol Leader, but this was before I completed the service requirement for Life. Would this count as the Scoutmaster’s conference? In our troop, they always say that the conference and board of review must be done after completing all other requirements, but I remember reading somewhere that this actually applies only to the board of review, and the Scoutmaster conference can be counted any time after completing the rank before. Can you help me with understanding this? (Confused Scout, Northern New Jersey Council)

Yup, you’re absolutely correct. The conference with your Scoutmaster can be held at any time in between the rank you hold and the one you’re going for; it doesn’t have to be the last thing done before your board of review. So, if you can get a sign-off for this from anyone who knows you’ve already done this (remember: you simply have to have a conference; there’s nothing that says you must “pass”—just have it!), then you can ask the person who schedules boards of review to schedule one for you right away! (It takes only three committee members in attendance for your review to be held). Go for it!
Hi Andy,

We have an interesting Eagle Project situation that we’d appreciate your weighing in on…

A Life Scout completes his Eagle Scout Service Project and report, which was duly signed as completed by the beneficiary and his Scoutmaster, and, at this point, has six months to his 18th birthday. His project proposal described his intention to build a bridge over a park creek in town. His Scoutmaster approved this proposal, as did the town representative (i.e., “beneficiary”) and the District’s advancement committee. So the Scout goes to work on his project. All funds are raised and the project’s completed. The Scout is now close to his 18th birthday, and everything seems okay and in order.

But then a resident of the town comes forth and says the steepness of the bridge doesn’t meet American Disability Act. Thereupon, the Scout, with the help of his troop, regrades the ramps, adding 18 feet to achieve a lesser grade, in effect redoing a project already completed and signed off. Great? Nope! The same individual now says an ADA-compliant handrail is needed. Now this same Scout and troop attempt to make this second change to the original projects, but the best they can find out is that this handrail must be custom-made and will cost $18,000. Everyone goes into overdrive due to the Scout’s now-impending 18th birthday, but they can’t raise that kind of money in time! Then the ADA-approved handrail manufacturer comes to the Scout’s aid and donates the handrail! So the project is “completed”…yet again.

Our opinion is that the Eagle Scout Service Project is completed when the project work as described in the approved proposal is completed and approved as such, and that, if the Scout chooses to continue working on it for ADA accuracy, this is okay but the original project stands as completed on the date stated.

This Scout is okay, and will achieve Eagle rank, but we could use some insights here in case something like this should arise in the future. Can you help? (Name & Council Withheld)

Yup, I can definitely help here. When a project is completed as planned per the original proposal, and all end-signatures are in place, he’s done: The project is indeed completed. From a BSA/Eagle point-of-view, there is absolutely nothing further required of the Scout. The project stands as completed and fully signed of as such.

As for that sole resident’s “complaint,” this is a town matter to deal with, not the Scout’s.

I’ve taken the time to find and read the appropriate sections of the 2010 ADA (American Disabilities Act) Standards for Accessible Design and the first thing I notice is that the ADA Standards have wisely provided any number of “exception” situations and scenarios that would most likely have obviated further work (and re-work).

It also strikes me that the town itself should have been the party to take responsibility for the two re-do’s; not the Scout or his troop. The town fathers might also have taken into consideration that these complaints came from a single resident and not either residents-at-large of the town, the town’s engineer, or the town’s park overseer. I’ll go so far as to say that it was the town that placed an unreasonable burden on this Scout by passing the buck to him, and this Scout’s leaders followed suit when they failed to tell him, “Scout, you’re done; if the town’s fathers didn’t check code before approving your plan and it’s completion per that plan, the problem becomes theirs to deal with.”

This is also where a troop’s Eagle Project Advisor (aka “EPA”) can be of enormous help. Let’s remember that the EPA is, most importantly, a Life Scout’s advocate!

That’s right: If the EPA believes that a Scout is being mistreated by anyone, he or she can step in to support and defend the Scout! This is something that absolutely should have been done here. It could have changed the outcome in major ways by making sure the burden got placed where it belonged.

Thanks for taking the time to describe this mess, and, as for this Scout, I’m thinking “Eagle-with-Crossed Palms”?
Hello Andy,
Can a Scout earn a fifth merit badge (his 26th)—which would qualify him for a palm—on the same day as, but before, his Eagle board of review, and be considered to have earned the palm? (S. Huet)

Absolutely! So long as the counselor’s signature date is on or before the board of review, it’s completely okay.
Hi Andy,

A Scout in my troop recently completed his Eagle project, which consisted of sanding and repainting a metal railing, and landscaping the front of the town Post Office, and all completion signatures are in place on his project report.
Now the

hiccup… I’ve since learned that the Post Office leases their building from a private (i.e., “for-profit”) owner. I do know that Eagle projects aren’t limited to not-for-profit organizations (the common example used is an animal exercise area or playground at a for-profit animal hospital or shelter). But I’m not feeling very kindly about enhancing the value of a rental building that the landlord has chosen to not maintain appropriately. Can you provide any perspective on this? (Bill Stuart, Mayflower Council, MA)

This project was pre-approved by you, the troop committee, you troop’s Service Project Coach (if you have one), and of course the beneficiary and district advancement committee and chair. And he completed what his project proposal said he was going to do, with all final signatures in place. So, at this point, I think the best course of action is to acknowledge this Scout’s efforts, leadership, and success in completing what he set out to do.

As for “rent,” this is, of course, in the eye of the beholder (i.e., “lessee” in this instance), so that we don’t know what “an arm and a leg” really means, relative to other comparable rentals in the area. Besides, this selection was most likely made and is paid for by the USPS, which isn’t quite the same as a lessor price-gouger putting a burden on a “local” business that’s trying to make a profit.

As for “enhancing the value” of a rental building, I’d think that some landscaping and painting an existing railing really don’t have much dollar-value impact on the building itself—I’d suggest that this is more about enhancing the work environment of the USPS employees and providing a more enjoyable “ambiance” for the Post Office’s many customers.

Time to take a Mulligan, I’d think.

Mike LoVecchio, the BSA’s Advancement Specialist, put it better than I’ve ever come up with: “We adult volunteers need to stop thinking of ourselves as ‘gatekeepers’ and start remembering that we’re here to be gate-openers!”

Thanks, Andy. As I noted, the Scout did a good job on his project. He earned the rank. I just want to make sure that, in the future, we don’t set an expectation in the community that Boy Scouts are available to perform public service on private buildings. Maybe I’m overthinking this one. I agree that we need to be gate-openers! I just want to make sure that someone at BSA headquarters in Texas reviewing a project doesn’t raise a red flag over a project for which a renter signs off as the project recipient and a private entity benefits. Sounds like that won’t be an issue in a case like this, given Mike’s quote. I think that our troop and district volunteers can identify a completely inappropriate project recipient (landscaping a manufacturing site, building emergency egress stairs at Gillette Stadium). I’m simply concerned about the size of the gray area in which a private business is involved. (Bill)

Actually, the BSA National Office really doesn’t get to see the guts of any service project leading to Eagle, so it’s sorta unlikely for there ever to be any blow-back from that direction.

Helping a Scout aimed in the right direction falls to the troop’s Eagle Project Coach first and foremost, and there’s a district advancement committee that’s also responsible for noticing projects like sprucing up Yankee Stadium and such.

The key is the Scout himself. He is best served when we help him focus on what he might do for his church/synagogue/temple or school or local YMCA or PAL or community-at-large or other not-for-profit organization.

But occasionally it can definitely be tricky. Let’s for instance, say that the “manufacturing site” makes (perhaps among other things) crutches that they sell at cost to military veterans. Or a for-profit nursing home serving indigent community members in need of care. The key, I believe, is: who are the ultimate beneficiaries?
Anyway, with sound direction from knowledgeable, Scout-minded folks like you, hiccups in this area can certainly be minimized if not totally eliminated.

Happy Scouting!


Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Just to me at: Please include your name and council. (If you’d prefer to be anonymous, if published, let me know and that’s what we’ll do.)

[No. 555– 1/9/2017 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2018]


About AskAndy

Andy is a Board Member of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.

Andy has just received notification by his council Scout Executive that he is to be recognized as a National Distinguished Eagle Scout. He is currently serving as a Unit Commissioner and his council's International Representative. He has previously served in a number of other Scouting roles including Assistant Council Commissioner, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Den Leader, and--as a Scout--Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. His awards include: Kashafa Iraqi Scouting Service Award, Distinguished Commissioner, Doctor of Commissioner Science, International Scouter Award, District Award of Merit (2), Scoutmaster Award of Merit, Scouter's Key (3), Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award, Cliff Dochterman Rotarian Scouter Award, James E. West Fellow (2), Wood Badge & Sea Badge, and Eagle Scout & Explorer Silver Award.

Read Andy's full biography

Comments are closed.