Cumberland church: Bigger costs on horizon – Hasso Hering


A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Cumberland church: Bigger costs on horizon

Written August 17th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

The former Cumberland Presbyterian Church the way it looked on Saturday morning.

It’s been more than a year since the Albany City Council voted to try to get rid of the former Cumberland Presbyterian Church it owns at Main Street and Santiam Road. Volunteers have been working on saving the building, and now the council faces a decision on whether to spend money on major repairs.

It was on July 9, 2018, that the council voted 4-2 to instruct the staff to explore the idea of finding a buyer who would move the historic building to a site the city doesn’t own. Nothing came of that instruction, it appears.

Last week, Councilman Rich Kellum asked about what continued ownership of the building was costing the city, in utilities for instance. On Friday, City Manager Peter Troedsson had an answer that hinted at bigger cost concerns coming up.

In his weekly summary of items of interest, Troedsson wrote: “At Wednesday’s council meeting, a question was raised about the city’s on-going costs of ownership of the property at 401 Main St. Although the question focused on utility bills, major maintenance needs in the near future present a greater concern. Staff will provide a comprehensive update on September 25. Utility bills averaged $62.16 per month during the last fiscal year.”

Before the council vote in July 2018, a task force appointed by the mayor had talked about getting the building moved a few hundred feet up Santiam Road to a vacant piece of city property near the Albany Skate Park. The idea was to have it remodeled there as a public community center. Mayor Sharon Konopa and Councilmen Dick Olsen and Ray Kopczynski (since succeeded by Alex Johnson II) advocated using urban renewal funds for part of that project, but the council vote foreclosed on that approach.

The majority at that point — Kellum, Bessie Johnson, Bill Coburn and Mike Sykes — didn’t want to spend money on the building in view of the city’s more pressing needs, brought into sharper focus in the budget dicussions since then, including the necessity of leaving some police jobs unfilled.

The city government saddled itself with this white elephant when it bought the church for $150,000 in 2000, believing the property would be needed for a Main Street improvement project. Eventually the street project was redesigned and the former church, dating from 1892 and enlarged in the 1920s, was left where it sits.

If memory serves, in 2000 nobody objected to demolishing the building for a street project.  If somebody had, maybe the project could have been redesigned right then and the church would have remained in private hands. Then it would be somebody else’s problem now.  (hh)

A corner of the building this March. The council will hear about the need for repairs next month.

10 responses to “Cumberland church: Bigger costs on horizon”

  1. Just Some Poor Schmuck says:

    How about having someone jack it up in the middle of the night and move it to the site of the former paper mill. When they discover it, just deny all knowledge.

  2. Ray Kopczynsjki says:

    Albany has a very rich history that has been and is still very well worth trying to preserve. The recent debacle around the (now demolished) 3 homes on Calapooia, wanting to tear down the Cumberland church, and “re-purposing” the Carnegie Library, simply reinforce my belief that some folks don’t put a value on that rich history – which makes Albany a much better community in which to live than those communities who can’t see the forest for the trees…

    • birdieken says:

      Isn’t that value $750,000.00 to which $28,000.00 has been raised? Even the people who value “that rich history” aren’t willing to support the effort with their own money. The faithful left this building 18 years ago. I think they knew God lives in peoples hearts not in an old building. Good luck raising the money but I’m out.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        “$750,000” Where did that figure come from??? I don’t know what the groups’ totals are, but I do stand by what I wrote!

        • Katherine Domingo says:

          They inflate the price in order to get public opinion on their side. The city could have put it up for sale to a buyer who was interested in restoring it .It’s been done by dozens of historic home owners in the city and throughout the valley. I have a church listed for sale in Jefferson and that owner has done restoration over the last 14 yrs of her ownership and has not incurred nearly that much in costs.

  3. J. Jacobson says:

    The entirety of this saga perfectly exemplifies what happens when City Moms and Pops gaze longingly in the rear view mirror.

    The Mayor takes the lead….

  4. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Describing this building as a “white elephant” is too polite.

    Here is a phrase used by a General officer I worked for to describe WWII buildings on some Air Force bases: ‘You can’t polish a turd, but you can roll it in glitter.”

    He was not happy that money was being wasted while essential needs went begging.

    Sounds like Albany, eh?

  5. Delfina H Hoxie says:

    While I am sure the church was once quite handsome the City has more pressing issues that need our money. North Albany could use a library and a swimming pool and deserve to have common city built facilites. We could use more police and firemen, also.

  6. Katherine says:

    What no one has mentioned is that the adjacent property owner has bought or is interested in buying the land. I believe the mayor quoted the price at the meeting held at the library this Spring. Could you check on that? It was well under market value. Instead of giving it away they should have listed it for sale. I have restored a historic building in this city and it didn’t take nearly that much in restoration cost.

    When I moved here decades ago Albany had this bad rap due to the smell from the mill on I-5. Over the years we have been recognized nationwide for our great architect, history and festivals. Visitors and friends have been pleasantly surprised and delighted with our historic culture. The Hacklemans and Monteith’s were not unlike Americans today with their different views and politics. We even had to 2 newspapers back in the old days. I think this church is worth our collective efforts to save.


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