By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
HOLLY HILL -- If fighting city hall earns merit badges, boys in Cub Scout Pack 3054 will get them.
The City Commission approved a plan in its March 12 meeting to give the scouts free use of a city building at Hollyland Park, 1064 Ridgewood Ave. In exchange, the scouts agreed to clean the park quarterly.
"It wasn't so much a money issue," Cub Master Melissa Martin said after the meeting. "The building belongs to the scouts. As to the cleaning of the park, we do that anyway."
At its Feb. 12 meeting, the commission got an earful from Ms. Martin, pack members and supporters upset that City Manager Jim McCroskey started charging the scouts $15 an hour to use the city building. The scouts had used the facility free since April 2010. It had been paying $80 a month at Sica Hall before then.
Mr. McCroskey, an avid Boy Scout in his childhood, said he looked into a lease giving the pack use of the building signed by the previous city manager. He found out it wasn't approved by the city commission at the time, making it void.
"Unfortunately you have to go by the rules," he said in an interview before the last meeting. "I'm told by the commission to rent city property at a price."
The commission was sharply divided on how to handle the situation. Over the course of meetings, Commissioner Penny Currie said newspaper archives show the local American Legion and others pitched in to build the facility for the Boy Scouts around 1950. That, she said, precluded charging the pack to use it.
"That was built to be their building," she said at the February meeting. "The documentation tells me it's their building."
Commissioner Donnie Moore, however, said a lot of years have passed, the scouts moved out at some time and the building has long been a city facility kept up by taxpayers.
"To me it is about equality," he said at the earlier meeting. "We have an ordinance on this issue. We have rules and regulations we go by in the city."
Commission members directed Mr. McCroskey to negotiate a lease with the pack and bring it back at a later meeting for approval. Mayor Roy Johnson, Commissioner John Penny and Mr. Moore said they'd pay the usage fees for the pack until a new lease was readied and signed.
Ms. Martin and Mr. McCroskey met on Feb. 20 to discuss a lease. Ms. Martin requested a 20-year lease at the building in Hollyland Park for $1 a year. Mr. McCroskey offered the pack a $15-a-month lease for the building with at least the first two years paid for by an unidentified benefactor. Mayor Johnson verified he was the proposed benefactor.
"I told him if he could get it to $15 a month, I'd pay it for two years," the mayor said in a phone interview before the last meeting. "I want to help them out best we can, but I want it on a legal basis."
Ms. Martin declined the offer.
At the last meeting, Commissioner Elizabeth Albert moved to charge the scouts nothing for the building.
"There are at least three entities in the city that enjoy no rent," she said. "To me, at the end of the day, it's about investments. I want to invest in our children."
Commissioner Penny said he'd support the proposal, if it included park cleaning.
"I am in favor of the Cub Scouts using the facility if there are some additional concessions given," he said. "I want them to learn that you're not getting anything for nothing."
Mr. Moore was alone in dissenting.
"I think the commission is setting an example that entitlements are OK," he said at the meeting. "Are you teaching them anything at all other than the government will provide for you?"
About 30 elementary-school-aged boys are members of 3054. About 20 regularly show for meetings, Ms. Martin said. The next closest pack is 3055, which meets at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1125 Sixth St., Daytona Beach. Both are members of the Central Florida Council.