Bath Council seeks members to bring Historic Monuments Commission back into state compliance – The Morgan Messenger
by Trish Rudder
The City of Bath is taking steps to reunite its defunct Historic Monuments Commission after being told the group is not following state guidelines for its operation and may not be able to secure grants.
Mayor Scott Merki said earlier this month that a citizen wrote a letter saying the Historic Landmarks Commission did not comply with state rules and was not eligible for a grant.
The letter was from former HLC chairman David Abruzzi, who also sent a letter to the WV State Historic Preservation Office (SHIPO) alerting them that the City of Bath was not complying with state requirements for local government certified, and that “limited federal and state grants go to municipalities that are in compliance,” Abruzzi wrote.
“Compliance ended in May/June 2021 when all but two HLC members resigned,” Abruzzi wrote in his July 1 letter.
The state historic preservation office received Abruzzi’s letter and said his statements were correct, according to Meredith Dreistadt, certified local government coordinator.
She said that before the city’s HLC is eligible for a future grant, a performance review would be held to ensure that the commission was in compliance with SHIPO’s rules and regulations.
According to the WV 8-26A-4 code, the city can create a commission of historical monuments composed of five members appointed by the mayor by ordinance.
Bath’s HLC had nine members under its ordinance, but in July 2021 the city council considered reducing the number of members to five and only allowing residents of the city to serve, according to earlier reports.
Merki asked on July 5 whether the council passed the ordinance appointing five members instead of nine.
“We need to check that out,” he said.
“I’m pretty sure we pulled it off,” he said. “If not, we will go ahead to get it done.”
Abruzzi wrote that the council had begun work on revising the HLC ordinance to limit membership, but “this effort to revise the ordinance has been put on hold to address the city’s more pressing concerns.”
By state law, a historic landmarks commission must have a minimum of four meetings per year. Three of these five members must be present to constitute a quorum. But the city’s HLC is down to just two members after the others quit. The resignations came when the board voted against expanding the commission’s operations.
Abruzzi wrote that he had read the agendas and minutes of council meetings and watched his videos over the past year, and “it is obvious that no HLC meeting took place, nor any concerted effort to (re)establish an HLC in the past year”.
City recorder Susan Webster said she’s been in touch with the state historic preservation office and they “are very interested in wanting to help.”
Dreistadt said the city contacted them for help.
“We have to find people,” Merki said. “We have to put the five members in place.”
He said HLC members must be residents of the city and asked that those interested in serving on the commission send a resume to the city to join the HLC, “so that we are in good standing with the state “.