BERLIN– Town officials voted 3-2 to approve plans for a new ATM machine at a Main Street bank.
The Berlin Historic District Commission (HDC) voted 3-2 to approve Taylor Bank’s plans to install a new ATM machine on the Main Street side of the historic building. Commission members Mary Moore and Laura Stearns, who opposed the proposal, both cited concerns about the aesthetics and lack of architectural detail.
“This is one of the most historic buildings in the town and this is a big change,” Stearns said.
Taylor Bank President Ray Thompson told the commission last week that the bank’s current ATM, which is housed in a vestibule on Main Street, had reached the end of its useful life and needed to be replaced. He said given the size of the replacement machine, bank leadership felt it would be more accessible and more safely installed if it was put through the wall.
“That vestibule is no longer serving its purpose,” he said. “Having that ATM on that wall on the exterior of the building, it’s going to be more visible,” he said, adding that oftentimes merchants directed customers to the ATM and they weren’t able to find it. “Plus we feel it’s much safer installation because it’s more publicly visible to law enforcement as well as others traversing Main Street.”
Moore asked if the bank had considered installing the machine on the Broad Street side of the building.
“We have the ability to install an ATM on Broad Street but Main Street is the preferred location because of traffic counts,” Thompson said.
Moore said she understood than an ATM machine was a necessary part of bank business but lamented its impact on what she described as one of the town’s iconic structures.
Stearns offered similar views and said she loved the vestibule.
“I value my relationship with Taylor Bank,” she said. “When I go in there, every time I go in I think to myself this is the way a bank should look. It feels good. It’s beautiful. As a customer of the bank I love that vestibule. On a cold windy wet day I duck in there, I put my purse on the ledge…I feel safe because I’m in there. I think it is, it’s one of the main parts of Berlin and it’s part of the charm. I don’t want to see it go away, that vestibule. I know the town needs to still maintain its modern amenities but that is one of the most charming little ATMs there ever was.”
Thompson said the new machine was too large to fit in the vestibule. As far as locating it elsewhere on the building, he said that would be difficult as well.
“The best way I can explain it to you is because this space is already designated as an ATM vestibule, placing it anywhere else in the building then becomes hugely disruptive to the historic value of the building,” he said.
Moore said that if the machine had to go where it was proposed adjacent to the existing vestibule space there should at least be a way to make it fit in better visually.
“I’d love to think somebody could creatively come up with a more visual, attractive presentation that’s more in keeping with the historic feeling of our town,” she said.
Thompson said the size of the machine, which extends into the bank and has to be accessed regularly from inside because it will accept deposits, limited options.
“I apologize bank machinery isn’t prettier,” he said.
Thompson added that there had been issues regarding the vestibule in the past.
“As nice as that is to have in the winter, we have from time to time come to work in the morning and found folks sleeping in that vestibule,” he said. “They have also from time to time used it as a restroom. This’ll help us with that.”
When the idea of installing an ATM in the drive-thru area came up, Thompson said that would cost two to three times as much as what was proposed.
“There’s also, people are familiar with the ATM being in this location,” he said. “It’s easier for business continuity to know the ATM’s generally in the same place it’s just reoriented.”
Moore suggested changing the lettering to improve the appearance of the machine. Thompson agreed that the logo could likely be switched from blue to gold. Moore said incorporating the year the bank opened would add a historical aspect to the machine but Thompson pointed out the bank’s original sign was already set up just to the left of the ATM area.
Stearns said she felt that Broad Street would be a better location or the machine.
“Traffic counts won’t work for us,” Thompson said. “It’s going to be harder for our customers to find it as well.”
When asked if an architect had been engaged to design the ATM proposal, Thompson said an architect hadn’t been necessary.
“We’re going to reorient it to the east and put it through the wall which is a very common application for ATMs,” he said. “Vestibule ATMs for a lot of reasons are not the safest ATMs anymore.”
Commission member John Holloway said he was torn on the proposal.
“I don’t like it on the front of the building like that,” he said.
The commission agreed to have Thompson submit an updated rendering showing a gold logo as well as the addition of some molding above the machine. On Friday, the rendering was forwarded to commission members for an email vote and was approved 3-2.