Old church: Its fate still not settled – Hasso Hering


A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Old church: Its fate still not settled

Written July 9th, 2018 by Hasso Hering

The former church and its neighbor, the Baldwin construction company, on Monday evening.

You may be tired of reading about the former Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Tough. You’ll have to put up with it for a while longer because the Albany City Council still has not made a decision on what to do with the decaying building at Santiam Road and Main.

Council members Ray Kopczynski and Dick Olsen, along with Mayor Sharon Konopa,  want the city to use urban renewal money in the CARA program to move the building to a city-owned parcel near Hackleman Park. There it would be restored as a “community center,” perhaps with money raised in a public campaign.

Councilors Bill Coburn, Bessie Johnson, Rich Kellum and Mike Sykes want no city money spent on the project, ruling out the use of CARA funds.

Two weeks ago the council asked Parks Director Ed Hodney to explore selling the property with a couple of parties. On Monday he reported that Yohn Baldwin, owner of the Baldwin construction company next door on Santiam Road, was interested in the property but not the building, but had offered unspecified help in any effort to save and preserve the building.

The council voted to instruct Hodney to talk to Baldwin some more and offer to sell him the property. Hodney suggested some deal with a delayed closing date if several conditions are met, including that a funding campaign for moving the building be successful.

A group in the Willamette Neighborhood, which had called for moving the building and preserving it for its historic nature, did not have the “wherewithall” to carry out that idea, Hodney said.

In a letter, Baldwin told Hodney it would cost about $550,000 to reroof the building and restore it to a “gray shell condition.”

Monday’s council work session erupted in a testy exchange between Olsen and Kellum over the nature of CARA funds. You can listen to it when the audio is posted on the council’s website, probably by Tuesday. The gist was Olsen’s opinion that CARA money was not the same as other taxes since it doesn’t raise the taxes people pay, even though it looks that way on property tax bills.

The church, which the city bought in 2000 for $150,000 for street purposes but then didn’t need, seems to be more dilapidated every time you look at it.

So what now? Stay tuned. (hh)

15 responses to “Old church: Its fate still not settled”

  1. J. Jacobson says:

    “Those who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer a difficult question: why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?”

    Sandra Day O’Connor

    • Jim Thomas says:

      It’s important to remember that nowhere in the constitution will you find the words “separation of church and state”.

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    The MP3 audio is not available, so we’ll have to wait to hear the testy exchange.

    But the facts about CARA and its chosen financing method (called TIF – Tax Increment Financing), aren’t hard to understand.

    CARA funds it projects by putting Albany taxpayers into debt. The debt must be repaid, so CARA skims property tax revenues from the other taxing districts without their permission (ex: schools, county, 4H, vets home, etc.).

    So TIF money is not appropriated directly from a taxing district’s budget, but the taxing district does incur a loss through foregone tax revenue.

    The big issue for me is this – city taxpayers are put into debt without their approval and tax revenues already paid to the taxing districts for specific purposes are siphoned and used for unintended purposes (so-called urban renewal). This represents a breach of trust with local property taxpayers and voters.

    Thankfully, several years ago city voters stated loud and clear that they will be the final voice on every future urban renewal plan. The mayor and council fought the initiative, but lost.

  3. Richard Vannice says:

    Another typically political farce. All they (politicians) do is say, we should, we could, we want, we might, but they don’t.

    • Jim Thomas says:

      And much of the time that’s a good thing. I for one generally prefer to see government doing less, because too much of what they do infringes on our rights and costs us money.

  4. Avid Reader says:

    We pay property taxes or lose our property! Period. Since CARA formed, the city has been skimming money off the top of taxes paid in the CARA district, and using it to pay off bonds they float for rich people to re-do buildings such as J.C. Penney and Fortmiller Funeral Home and to construct white elephants such as the somewhat vacant Wheelhouse! We taxpayers had no vote on the formation of CARA district in the first place and we have no say on their projects…except when a committee was formed to get the fire and police station bonds passed and they insisted on CARA chipping in. Frank Morse, who had some clout on that committee, was on the side of CARA chipping in, so Wes Hare and the city (CARA, that is) had to chip in a little on the police station.

    The use of CARA funds to move that old church would be a more noble use by far than helping rich people pay for their J.C. Penney, Fortmiller, and Wheelhouse projects.

  5. Dick olsen says:

    Thank you Avid for your kind comment on the Cumberland church project. The church does not now, and will not when moved and improved, have any property tax values. However, I believe that it will have a strong influence on the increased value of the neighborhood and therefore a strong, beneficial effect on the tax increment value of the CARA district that goes to pay off the CARA bond where the money for the project comes from in the first place.

    Shadle and other out-of-town complainers should learn that moneys spent on CARA projects aren’t pilfered from the tax payers pocket, but, are borrowed in the form of bonds. These bonds are then paid off from taxes on the INCREASED VALUE and ONLY ON the INCREASED VALUE of the properties in the CARA district. The City, County, School Districts etc. get and will continue to get their same revenues as they got from the taxable value of the CARA district before the CARA project began.

    Complainers should also realize, that if a property is subjected to increased taxes because of CARA, it’s because that property has increased in value. Most property owners are glad to see increased values, particularly if they are planning on selling.
    In this way, those brave souls who were willing to invest in a shabby, deteriorating downtown Albany are paying back at least part of the money they got from CARA.

    It should also be remembered or realized, that banks would not lend on risky projects in downtown Albany. Thus the need for CARA to step in and provide needed financing.

  6. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Olsen “believes”, without using a quantifiable methodology, that the CARA debt and spend scheme will increase the value of private properties in the CARA district.

    There are quantifiable methods available to estimate the “tax increment” expected for each project, but Olsen and his CARA cohorts choose not use them. Why? For example, what is the payback period for this church project? Olsen answers the question not with a transparent, verifiable estimate but a belief.

    No private business relies on such flimsiness when spending millions of dollars. Taxpayers demand rigorous due diligence. CARA delivers beliefs.

    And where is Olsen’s justification for taking money from essential services for specific purposes and spending it on unintended, non-essential urban renewal projects? He ignores the issue because he has no reasonable response. He knows that CARA spending is a breach of trust with property taxpayers and voters.

    This breach of trust became evident to Albany residents several years ago when they demanded to be the final voice on future urban renewal plans. Olsen fought Albany residents every step of the way. When the ballots were counted Albany residents won, Olsen lost. The new language in the city charter approved by voters is a direct reflection of the mistrust CARA has created over the years.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      You continually blithely dismiss exactly what/how/why the URD was formed. I get that. You (and others) also have this very fictitious idea that all URDs must have a pure business-measurable-ROI as the determining factor of whether or not they meet your definition of success. Thankfully, it is a very obvious success without that very erroneous conflation. In addition, more communities are starting the process by which to create a success via a URD — and every one of them will be different. And none of them will meet your definition of having a measurable ROI.

      Dick’s comments are very factual. I agree wholeheartedly….

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        So your beliefs are factual? Sounds like you’re practicing a religion, not urban renewal. Shameful.

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          Yes, I’m very proud of trying to think long term for the viability of Albany by following the rules as outlined for URDs. Is that a “religion?’ Not in my book, but it is a passion…

  7. hj.anony1 says:

    Great picture! Good one HH! Dark, ominous clouds for sure. I didn’t know the structure in question had a pink colored inset on the facade. Interesting! Driving by, with my eyes, on the road would be tough to catch.

    Otherwise, I must say Christ! “No Shade” Shadle seems to obsess about the dollars and cents of idyllic life here in Albany. I suggest he move back. Of course, property values MAY be a bit of a sticker SHOCK …zzzzZZZzzzz… to him now. Just sayin’

  8. Omizais says:

    So when the city originally bought the property for street reasons, was the church going to be “saved” then? This is a waste of time and money. It would be more cost effective to build a brand new community center on a number of city owned lots. It may pull at some heart strings but that should be a learning lesson for us, take care of what you have or it’s gone .

  9. Gothic Albany says:

    Such a beautiful church! I love the windows and rich woodwork. You don’t find craftsmanship like that done much anymore. It is worth saving.


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