A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Cumberland may figure in Albany election

Written July 14th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

The preservation of Albany’s former Cumberland Presbyterian Church may become an issue in the city council elections this fall. A remark by Councilman Rich Kellum last week implied as much.

The Cumberland Community Event Center wants to move the historic building about a quarter-mile to a lot it hopes to buy from the city near the Albany skatepark.

On July 8, the council voted to give the Cumberland group an option to buy the lot for $69,000, an option they will have until Oct. 1 to exercise.

Mayor Sharon Konopa asked the council to give the group until mid-November to exercise the option, allowing more time during the corona crisis to raise money.

That’s when Kellum spoke up. “I object most strenuously,” he said, and then he went on.

You can hear what he said about 29 minutes into the YouTube video of the virtual, online meeting here. The gist was that to him, the request for extra time was an effort “to get past the election” in the hope that maybe there will be a different group on the council so that the preservation to save the old church can get a city subsidy.

According to Kellum, there’s an organization in town that wants to raze the building and recycle the wood. That might become an option for the council majority if the preservation group can’t go ahead with its plan to move the church, renovate and expand it, and then run it as a nonprofit event center.

A different option is to use urban renewal money to help the nonprofit, or even to have the city move and restore the building. But the current majority on this issue has said no city money should be spent on any preservation plan.

Three of the councilors who have taken that stand are Kellum, Mike Sykes and Bill Coburn, whose current terms are up on Dec. 31. If two of them or all three are replaced by candidates favoring preservation of the church, with city help if necessary, and if Konopa is re-elected, the outlook for saving the building will change.

The filing period for city candidates opens on Aug. 5. Whether the Cumberland issue will feature in the campaign for the Nov. 3 election, we’ll see after Aug. 20, when the filing period ends. (hh)

The former Cumberland church in December 2016.





10 responses to “Cumberland may figure in Albany election”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    If some Albany taxpayers want to voluntarily give their own money to preserve an old church, more power to them.

    But if these same folks want to use the power of local government to coerce every other Albany taxpayer into financially supporting the preservation, that is inherently wrong and should have no place in a civilized society.

    At election time ask the candidate:

    Does spending public funds on the preservation of an old church constitute an essential service of city government? Please explain.

  2. John Klock says:

    It doesn’t always have to be a false dichotomy, a false choice. The fact of the matter is outside of the downtown area, most of Albany is a freeway and not that pretty and this is noted by many visitors who come here. It’s about a modicum of respect for the building itself, the non-profit, and the fact that everything doesn’t have to be essential. If you are going to have constant development in this city, take a breather and think about a little bit of building diversity.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      “…the fact that everything doesn’t have to be essential.”

      Evidently city government misusing its taxing power by spending on non-essential things is okay with you.

      God help Albany if any candidate for city council gets elected with this attitude.

  3. centrist says:

    So, Kellum brings info (?) about a group wanting to recycle elements of the building.
    Before anyone falls in love with approach, take a breath.
    Given the age, the building likely contains asbestos, lead, bird/bat/rodent waste that have to be mitigated by a licensed outfit. Who owns that liability and cost?

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “So, Kellum brings info (?) about a group wanting to recycle elements of the building.”

      I’m intrigued as to why that would be germane to this situation inasmuch as it seemed it was totally irrelevant to the 3 old houses that came down at 4th & Calapooia…

      • centrist says:

        The house demo was basically smash and bury.
        Disassembly and reclaim is hands-on. There’s workplace exposure potential to at least discuss.

        • hj.anony1 says:

          “So, Kellum brings info (?)”…. LOL. I watched and no name drop.

          I did watch Kellum shake his head at roughly 29 min. in. See sawing back and forth in his chair. Shaking his head in the negative. All eager to pipe up prior to his turn.
          Then just word salad. No name drop.
          So bad….

  4. sonamata says:

    What is continued ownership of the building/property actually costing the City? Did anyone quantify the utilities and insurance expenses brought up in the June meeting? I understood that nonprofit volunteers have performed a number of repairs and are doing routine maintenance, but there’s risk of major maintenance/repair costs in the future.

    Would be nice for constituents to know if the agita about this church is based on substantive financial impact or if it’s just a pissing contest.

  5. Rick says:

    The replacement for three houses at 4th and Calapooia will be on the tax rolls. This commercial building and potentially three commercial lots will not be on the tax rolls and will be sold at below market rates. The city will benefit with a bit of community use of the building, removal of a commercial building from one location to another, a few dollars of utility and insurance savings, perhaps the services the nonprofit provides will provide a better life for some in Albany. As I see it.

  6. Marty says:

    What would it cost for the building to remain where it is? Renovate it and use it as a community event center? The city would then, not have to be involved in any of the finances or would it?


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