Bath answers State Historic Preservation Office concerns

by Trish Rudder

A letter dated February 9 from Town of Bath Mayor Scott Merki to Susan Pierce at the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) was discussed at the February 21 Bath Town Council meeting.

Merki said the letter was “to right the ship, more or less.”

The letter detailed the town’s progress and specific improvements, including public workshops by SHPO held in October 2023; requests made to SHPO for more training in 2024; the town’s completion of the Train Depot rehabilitation project and the HLC input on the town’s proposed demolition ordinance and offer to provide ongoing consultation when it goes into effect.

The SHPO office notified the town on October 16, 2023 that it had to implement improvements by February 13, 2024 to the town’s Certified Local Government (CLG) program. SHPO received written concerns from 33 property owners and residents within the Town of Bath Historic District over the local government’s lack of preservation efforts and commitment to preserving historic resources.

The October 16 letter from Susan M. Pierce, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer to the Bath Town Council members outlined the property owners and residents concerns and offered the town suggestions and a timeframe to keep from losing its CLG status.

The Historic Landmarks Commission treasurer, Ryan Rebant, who is the spokesperson for the town appointed commission, said in the meeting that, “We are definitely making an effort [to make improvements].”

“I think this is going to be a big year,” he said.

Rebant said that Bath Councilwoman Mary Lynn Hickey, who chairs the town’s Grant Committee, is helping the HLC with grants.

Rebant said local volunteer Melissa Shod is applying to join the Landmarks Commission and the council needs to approve that request at the next meeting.

He said the group’s next meeting will be held on February 28 at 2 p.m. in Town Hall.

Merki requested in his letter that the town receive a written response that the town’s current CLG status is in good standing “as a result of these actions and our commitment to improving our processes on these fronts moving forward.”