Bye Bye Bathhouse

Council votes 3-2 to replace old bathhouse with memorial 

June 15, 2017

By Fred Arnold Telescope publisher

Local historical preservationist Nancy Holt implored the city council to “make a decision.”

The Belleville woman who has spear-headed the effort to save the WPA-era bath house in the city park says she has collected pledges totaling $3,000
so far and will apply for a $25,000 grant for repairs to the structure.

“But, none of us want to accept any money until we know you’re (the city council) going to save it,” she said Monday.

Holt got her answer. But it wasn’t the answer she and about a half a dozen others in attendance at the city council meeting wanted to hear. City leaders voted 3-2 to tear down the facility.

In official voting council members Dr. Roger McCartney, Steve Scofield and Tiffany Hansen voted to raze the structure to make way for athletic courts on site. Adam Robertson and Doane Sells voted against the measure.

But what was a twist of irony associated with tearing the building down was part of the verbage of the motion made by council member Hansen. She stated in part,” that as much of the brick from the bath house be saved to construct a monument to the WPA,” in an obvious attempt to pacify local historical preservationists.

One person in attendance said it was “stupid” to tear down a building and then build a monument to the building just torn down.

Prior to the vote Holt and former Belleville Mayor Tatum Couture each spoke with opposing viewpoints on the issue.

Holt said that during the three days of alumni weekend she had received numerous comments from people expressing a desire that the building should be saved. She said she believed Belleville had a great opportunity to be a recipient of a $25,000 grant from State Farm and that agent John Bannister and Jodi Ball from the Belleville office should be commended for pointing them in the right direction.

“But let’s save it first before we decide what to do with it,” Holt added

The former mayor was a bit more matter of fact about the building.

“I don’t know that I have a strong feeling one way or the other,” Couture said. ‘I know there’s a lot of emotion centered around [the bath house] but what are we going to do when Nancy is no longer around to raise money for things like this? Who’s going to be the new Nancy?”

“For long term purposes I don’t know that it is feasible to save this building. I realize that it’s part of our history but we need to look to the future and to better use our parks.”

Belleville Mayor Blaine Miller conducted a straw poll among council members prior to the vote:

Tiffany Hansen- “Where is the money going to come from in the future? I’m not a huge history buff, but when do we stop putting money out for everything? I went in the building over alumni weekend and honestly I don’t think its worth saving.”

Adam Robertson- “I’ve talked to a lot of people and there are a lot less people supportive of keeping the building than I thought.”

Steve Scofield- “I have an idea for keeping the building, but I’m not ready to share that yet.”

Doane Sells- “I’m for keeping it the way it is, you know where I’m at.”

Dr. Roger McCartney- “I have not changed my opinion on this at all.”

Shaun Herring was absent.

No time frame was given for when the structure will be razed