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Cambria bank drive-up

The sign has been removed from the National Exchange Bank and Trust branch in downtown Cambria, which was closed recently and has been offered to the village free of charge.

CAMBRIA — The recent closing of the National Exchange Bank and Trust branch here has presented village officials with an opportunity to receive a gift they may or may not want.

Monday’s Cambria Village Board meeting included brainstorming about possible uses the village could have for the building at 118 W. Edgewater St., just across the street from the Village Hall.

There also was a discussion about the pros and cons of accepting the building, and questions that warrant consideration before any decision is made.

According to Village President Glen Williams, bank officials offered the building to the village, free of charge, after the Cambria branch was closed Friday. A sign on the door of the locked building directs bank customers to nearby branches in Pardeeville and Randolph.

National Exchange Bank and Trust President James Chatterton was unavailable Wednesday to offer details about the building, or why the Cambria branch was closed.

Williams said he’s not sure about the size of the bank building, but he said he thinks it’s at least 1,500 square feet. It has one story and a basement, and there is a ramp in front.

Columbia County property records show the bank property is valued at $162,200, and the value for the land alone is $18,400.

For the most recent tax year, 2017, the property generated $4,278 in property taxes — revenue the village would lose if it were to assume ownership and take the property off the tax rolls.

Williams said it’s a shame the branch was closed, because much of the traffic downtown stemmed from people doing business at the bank.

But Williams told trustees the building, at first glance, seems to have possibilities for the village.

If the Village Hall were moved to the bank building, it might free up space to enlarge the community room, located just west of the Village Hall. Or the community room could be moved to the bank, as could the Jane Morgan Memorial Library, now located at 109 W. Edgewater St.

Trustee Jim “Bubba” Williams said village officials should check with the property records of the library to determine whether there’s a covenant or agreement requiring the structure be used as a library in perpetuity.

Bubba Williams said he also has reservations about the loss of property tax revenue.

“I like the possibilities, but I’m kind of scared from the tax standpoint,” he said.

Trustee Shannon Dunahee said the village could make the building available to new businesses that might want to locate in downtown Cambria, but which haven’t found a suitable location at an affordable price.

Trustee Cody Doucette suggested the Village Board’s Building and Grounds Committee — composed of Dunahee, Bubba Williams and Marty Stringfield — should explore issues related to the village’s possible acceptance of the bank building.

Village Engineer Rob Roth said some of those issues could be:

  • The condition of the building’s electric wiring and climate control infrastructure, and the history of utility costs.
  • Whether the building has an adequate number of restrooms for whatever use is proposed, and whether those restrooms meet federal accessibility standards.
  • The structural soundness, including whether materials such as asbestos might need to be abated.

An independent building inspector can provide most of those answers, Roth said.

“You want to know what you’re getting,” he said.

Follow Lyn Jerde on Twitter @LynJerde or contact her at 608-745-3587.

Portage Daily Register Reporter