JASPER, Tenn. - A disagreement over Jasper's responsibilities as a sponsor of local Cub Scout Pack 3058 could lead to an end of that partnership.
John Clark, the pack's scoutmaster, said the organization is chartered by the town through a Jan. 1 contract agreement.
"Our problem is that we don't have a place to meet," he said. "According to the contract that was signed, that was one of the things that the city was supposed to furnish us."
At the October meeting of the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Mayor Paul Evans said providing a meeting place was "never part of the discussion."
"I'm telling you right now, this board would not have agreed to sponsor them because we don't have a building," he said to Clark. "We let it be known up front that we can't put any money in it other than to sponsor it."
Clark provided an unsigned copy of the agreement, which City Attorney Mark Raines reviewed before saying it appeared to be between the Boy Scout Council of America and the local Cub Scout unit.
"The town is not the charter organization here," he said. "Even if this was the one the town signed, it is between the local Cub Scout organization and the Boy Scout Council of America."
Clark disputed that analysis.
"The charter organization is the organization that charters the pack or the troop," he said. "The sponsor and the charter organization are the same thing."
Raines said there is a "pretty important distinction" between the two terms.
"There's a huge difference between a charter organization, which has certain rights, rules and responsibilities, and a sponsor, who agrees to provide some support," Raines said. "It's not one and the same."
Despite the disagreement, Evans said he's been trying to find a place for the group to meet, but most building owners have turned him down because they don't have liability insurance.
"Nobody wants to do it, and this town cannot afford to rent a place," he said.
Years ago, the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts met in various local churches, but Clark said that has all but ended.
"Since this new proclamation came out by the Boy Scouts of America to allow gays in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, a lot of the churches withdrew [their sponsorship]," he said.
Evans said the current contract expires on Dec. 31, and unless the board decides otherwise, he'll terminate it if it's determined that the town is required to provide a meeting place for the group.
"It's a great organization," he said. "I was a part of it, and my kids were a part of it. I'll pay the $40 [sponsorship fee] out of my pocket to make sure they have a sponsor, but I don't have a place for them to meet. I wish we did."
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.