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Save our bank!

Published 8:24am Wednesday, May 8, 2013

AHOSKIE – For Jennifer Godwin, action speaks louder than words.

The lifelong Colerain resident was in Ahoskie late last week where she presented a petition to a local official with Southern Bank, asking that financial institution to consider locating a branch office in her hometown.

That request comes on the heels of an announcement made earlier this year by PNC Bank that their Colerain office will close effective 3 p.m. on Friday, May 17.

“Our concern is losing our bank in Colerain,” said Godwin during a Thursday meeting with Jerry Alexander of Southern Bank’s Ahoskie branch. “We have done a petition that I am presenting to you and that we have mailed to the (PNC) address if we have any concerns. What good that petition will do, I can’t say, but it has been mailed.”

She told Alexander there are currently four employees working for PNC at the Colerain location, an office that measures 1,960 square feet.

Accompanying Godwin during her meeting with Alexander were Bertie County Board of Commissioners Chairman Wallace Perry and Commissioner John Trent. Perry, who lives near Colerain, said he wanted to see a bank remain in that town and inquired of Alexander if Southern Bank would consider opening a branch in Colerain if a deal could not be worked out by Southern to purchase or lease the current PNC office.

Alexander said he wasn’t in the position to make such a decision and would forward the petition and concerns of Colerain residents to Southern Bank’s corporate office in Mt.Olive.

“I feel that if we could get the (PNC) building, it would make it an easier decision by other banking institutions to take a serious look at locating an office in Colerain,” Perry said. “The current PNC office there has all the required safety and security measures in place.”

Southern Bank already boasts of a strong presence in the Roanoke-Chowan area with 10 branches. Half of those are in BertieCounty – Askewville, Aulander, Lewiston, Roxobel and Windsor.

“I feel that Southern Bank is a good fit for Colerain, especially when you note their commitment to serving small towns,” Godwin stated. “I feel Southern Bank can do well in Colerain. It’s a big farming community and farmers need to borrow money to make ends meet until their crops are harvested.”

Trent said he has been dealing with the manager of Colerain’s PNC Bank in regards to the possible future use of that office. To date, Trent said he had been advised by the Colerain manager that PNC’s policy prohibits the sale or lease of their property to another banking institution.

“I’ve asked for that policy in writing, but as of today I have not received it,” Trent said. “The Colerain manager has worked diligently in trying to help and so something. This is about the people of Colerain and their bank and the manager realizes that.”

Trent added that he knew Alexander could not commit his banking institution to anything at this point.

“There are people above him that make these types of decisions,” Trent stated. “They’ll take a look at what we’ve presented to them and either go forward from there or decide to take no action.”

Colerain isn’t the only PNC office to be closed. According to national media reports, the Pennsylvania-based PNC Bank will close roughly 200 branches across 19 states and Washington, D.C. before the end of 2013. It’s yet to be confirmed, but the PNC location in Jackson is on the closure list.

With the announced closure of the Colerain branch and the possibility of the Jackson office closing its doors, PNC’s remaining presence in the Roanoke-Chowan area will be confined to branches in Ahoskie, Murfreesboro and Rich Square.

PNC spokesperson Amy Vargo, in a March interview with this newspaper, said PNC is continuously evaluating their branch network.

“From time to time those evaluations result in closing a branch and even opening one,” she said.

She added the bank strives to meet customers’ demands regarding banking with technology (i.e. online, mobile).

Vargo said she couldn’t speak to what would happen to the four employees at the Colerain branch.

“We’ll do our very best to relocate them,” she said.

Vargo added that all accounts at the Colerain office will be consolidated into the Ahoskie branch.

A bank in Colerain has been present for at least 66 years. Long time resident Bill Fowler remembers the very first bank, the Bank of Coleraine, already being open when he moved there in 1947.

Colerain Mayor Burney Baker said that financial institution later became Planters Bank and then purchased by RBC Centura before becoming PNC.

Baker agreed the community would be hit by the closing of PNC.

“It’s going to be hard to attract other businesses with no bank in town,” he said during a March interview. “We’re struggling just like any other small town.”

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