When local Boy Scout Derek Holt came before the Town of Paonia Board of Trustees on Sept. 22, seeking approval and help with funding to place bleachers at the Apple Valley tennis courts for his Eagle Scout project, he didn't quite get the response he expected.
"I thought they would say OK," and that would be it, said Holt.
But as trustee Eric Goold said to Holt, "The wheels of the government turn slow."
Holt, 15, is the son of Don and Dee Holt of Paonia. He is a member of Paonia Troop 477 under Scoutmaster Jake Barnett. As a sophomore at Paonia High School, he is a member of the Eagles football team, baseball team and swing choir. He attended his first Scouting class before age 12 and has earned 37 merit badges, well above the 21 required to become an Eagle Scout. He will be the first member of his immediate family to earn the ranking, the highest a scout can achieve, and which is earned by fewer than 5 percent of Boy Scouts nationwide.
Holt chose to install the bleachers because of his older sister, Jessie, a senior on the PHS tennis team. Last year she became the first Paonia singles player in school history to qualify for state competition. The new state-of-the-art courts are impressive, but unless they bring their own chairs, there is no seating for spectators, many of whom are from out of town.
Rather than get a green light from trustees, Holt got a lesson in bureaucracy when he discovered that coming before town was merely the first step in the approval process. Trustees quizzed him about cost, timeline, and where his funding will come from. While he was prepared to answer, he'll have to do some footwork, including more interaction with the town, finalizing cost and funding sources, and providing details of his plans, right down to addressing maintenance and vandalism, and the exact location for the bleachers.
Holt was also urged to get the blessing of the North Fork Pool, Parks & Recreation District, which manages the courts.
While they need more details before giving final approval, town leaders support Holt in his efforts. Town manager Jane Berry offered town services, and trustee Dave Bradford, who sits on the town's services and recreation committee, said he would run the request through the committee and it can make a recommendation to the board.
Goold, who reports on local high school sports, urged Holt to be patient and said the boys' tennis team is already talking about his efforts. "It's a great project," said Goold.
Even more people are likely to use the bleachers after pickleball lines were recently applied to the tennis courts, and local players consider hosting tournaments beginning in 2016.
Holt must also follow all of the Scouting guidelines, including creation of a project proposal, adhering to the fundraising process, and completion of a project report.
Going through the bureaucratic process is precisely what the BSA wants for its Eagle Scouts. Among the requirements, candidates must demonstrate service to community, and their project must have an impact on the community.
While Holt envisioned installing the bleachers before snow flies, he remains ahead of his original goal of having the bleachers installed when the girls' tennis season opens next spring. And he's not at all intimidated by the process. If anything, it's making him more determined. He estimates one set of aluminum bleachers will cost $500 - $700, including materials, and is considering raising more money for a second set of bleachers. In the future, other Scouts, and possibly Holt's younger brother, Justin, may also be able to add more bleachers as part of their service learning.
Holt said the process is moving ahead "very slowly." The extra steps may take time, but they will ensure that the project is done right, said Holt. He plans to complete the project and have bleachers in before his 16th birthday next April, just ahead of tennis season, so that he can further his Scouting achievements by earning his Eagle Palms.