Chairman Robert Conte called the meeting to order at 9:41 a.m. In addition to Dr. Conte, other voting members present were Harold Forbes, Rebecca Frye, Dr. Charles Ledbetter and Dr. Joan Walker. Voting members absent were Victor Greco, Bill Richardson, and Noel Tenney. Ex officio voting member present was Dr. Bill Arnett. Ex officio voting member absent was Fredrick Armstrong. Ex officio non-voting members present were Joe Geiger, director, Archives and History Commission; Dr. Michael Hohn, director, West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey; Susan Pierce, director, Historic Preservation Section; and Randall-Reid Smith, commissioner of Culture and History. Ex officio non-voting members absent were Charles Morris, director, Museums Section, and Jeremy Morris, president of Preservation Alliance of West Virginia. Also present were Historic Preservation staff members Pam Brooks and Anne Gryczon.
Following introductions, Chairman Conte asked for a motion on the meeting minutes of 31 January 2014. A motion to approve the minutes was made by Mr. Forbes, with a second by Dr. Arnett. The minutes were approved.
Chairman Conte called upon Mr. Geiger for the Archives and History report. Mr. Geiger referred members to information provided in the monthly reports for January through April 2014 (copies attached to official minutes) and then reviewed recent activities. He noted the success of the West Virginia History Bowl and History Day, as well as continued efforts to hold lectures and events in the Archives and History Library. In addition to a 40th anniversary celebration of the West Virginia Scenic Trails Association, the Library recently hosted an event celebrating the completion of the processing and the creation of an on-line finding aid for the gubernatorial papers of Joe Manchin, who spoke at the event. Mr. Geiger discussed several collections that had been added to the State Archives, including the Harden and Harden Funeral Home records, which have already been processed. He also mentioned a project to digitize old voter registration cards for Kanawha, Logan, and McDowell counties, which required the redaction of Social Security numbers and the alphabetization of the records before they are digitized. Mr. Forbes expressed his appreciation for the detailed monthly reports from Archives and History.
Chairman Conte then called upon Ms. Pierce for her presentation of the Historic Preservation report. Ms. Pierce referred to the report distributed to members (copy attached to official minutes) and provided a summary of activities based upon this report. She discussed recent staff resignations and stated her office was in the process of filling vacancies. Ms. Pierce recently attended the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers annual meeting and was elected as a board member. SHPO received funding from the National Park Service that would make development grant funds available to victims of Hurricane Sandy. She informed the commission that the Friends of Hoge House returned their grant funding in order to be released from a covenant so that a rear addition could be constructed to the historic building. SHPO’s Details newsletter has been drafted and the first historic preservation day camp will begin on June 23. Staff member Erin Riebe has received a number of inquiries about the Gap Valley Historic District nomination, which will be before the commission at the Fall meeting. A draft of the five-year statewide comprehensive plan was submitted to the National Park Service, and staff was making changes based on comments from them. Ms. Pierce noted that SHPO staff was working on a number of projects with various entities, including the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, the Corps of Engineers, the Division of Highways, the West Virginia Development Office, the Barbour County Commission, and the National Park Service.
Mr. Forbes asked if the commission would be commenting and voting on the Gap Valley Historic District at the Fall meeting and was informed they would be. Ms. Pierce explained that federal regulations require SHPO to notify property owners and the public, and when the May 30 meeting was cancelled and new dates for the rescheduled meeting discussed, it was not clear if the public notice deadline requirement could be met for the June 20 meeting. Due to the high level of public interest in the nomination, SHPO wanted to be certain they complied with public notice requirements, and therefore the nomination was postponed until the Fall meeting. In response to Mr. Forbes’s question, Ms. Pierce stated that the Gap Valley Historic District nomination had been tabled by the commission at an earlier meeting and that Ms. Riebe had worked to address the comments and concerns of the commission. Dr. Ledbetter asked if he could send corrections to SHPO staff members prior to the meeting, and he was informed he could send grammatical corrections but nothing relating to the eligibility of the nomination.
In the absence of Charles Morris, no Museums report was given, although a written report was submitted to members (copy attached to official minutes).
Chairman Conte then called on Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith for a report on Culture and History activities. Commissioner Reid-Smith reviewed Culture and History projects, noting continued work on the fence at Independence Hall, which would mark the completion of eight years of projects at the site. At Grave Creek, the bathrooms and theater had been renovated, and plans were being developed to redo the exhibits. The commissioner stated that Camp Washington Carver was in the best shape it has ever been, and they will be replacing roofs on buildings and want to replace the dormitory that was condemned. At the Culture Center, steps were being taken to fix a leak in museum storage by putting in sump pumps and drains. When this project is completed, the rolled storage system will be installed. The State Museum is being enhanced with sections on George Washington, John Brown, the Battle of Philippi, and the moving of state government to Charleston. The commissioner also stated his desire for an exhibit on the state’s natural resources. Seventy students from twenty-eight counties attended the second West Virginia Ambassadors camp, and plans were being made for a science, engineering and art fair, which will be held in October. Five governor’s interns would soon begin working at the Culture Center, but twelve permanent positions currently remain unfilled due to a hiring freeze. He stated the division was working closely with the Department of Education and noted several grant programs that had been extremely beneficial to schools and students throughout West Virginia.
Commissioner Reid-Smith informed the commission that he had met with the governor’s office (as did Secretary Goodwin) regarding commission vacancies. He was informed that Governor Tomblin has a number of appointments to fill and hopes to get it done soon. In response to a question by Dr. Conte, the commissioner stated that the governor does have an appointments person and the commissioner supplied a list of potential appointees several years ago. Dr. Hohn offered the assistance of the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey on the natural resources exhibit.
Turning to Old Business, Ms. Pierce provided updates on National Register nominations previously reviewed by the commission (copy attached to official minutes). Bethel Presbyterian Church in Wood County was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on March 31.
Ms. Pierce presented the FY2015 State Development Grant applications. She reviewed the process, noting that the applications were reviewed by staff and then scored by Development Grant panel members. Ms. Pierce asked if there were specific questions regarding the recommendations. Dr. Hohn commented that a lot of work was done before the meeting and reviewed how the panel graded the applications. Commissioner Reid-Smith moved to approve the staff recommendations for the FY2015 State Development Grants with the provision authorizing staff to move funds from cancelled projects or projects unable to use all available funding to the next project in order of priority or to increase funding to an approved project needing additional funds. The motion was seconded by Dr. Walker. Motion carried.
Chairman Conte called on Dr. Walker to give the Nominating Committee report on a suggested slate of officers (Chair and Vice Chair). Dr. Walker reported that the committee’s recommendation is for the nomination of Harold Forbes as chairperson and Noel Tenney as vice chairperson. Dr. Arnett moved to accept the recommendation of the committee and Dr. Ledbetter seconded. Motion carried.
Ms. Pierce expressed her gratitude to Dr. Conte and Dr. Ledbetter for their years of service as chair and vice-chair, which was echoed by the rest of the commission.
Chairman Conte noted that the Fall meeting is scheduled to be held in Huntington on September 25. The Winter meeting will be held in Berkeley Springs on January 23, with January 30 as a backup date.
Dr. Ledbetter noted that Dr. Arnett and his wife were celebrating their 49th wedding anniversary.
Dr. Arnett made a motion to adjourn and Chairman Conte declared the meeting adjourned at 10:44 a.m.
Joseph N. Geiger, Jr.
Archives and History Commission