It’s unfortunate that authorities with Community Bank felt the need to close the business’s branch in Harrisville.
Hal Wentworth, Community Bank’s vice president for retail banking, sent a letter dated Jan. 25 to customers announcing the decision to vacate the local site. Beginning April 28, this facility will be consolidated with the Star Lake branch 21 miles north of Diana on Route 3. The next closest Community Bank branches are more than 20 miles away in Gouverneur and West Carthage.
This is quite a distance for customers to travel if they need to visit a local site. Some in Harrisville fear that senior citizens will be hit the hardest by the loss of the neighborhood branch.
There also is a concern that the bank’s closure will affect surrounding businesses. If people have to drive more than 20 miles to patronize another Community Bank site, why not shop at the stores in that area?
“If I have to go out of town once a week to do my banking, then I might just do my grocery shopping in Carthage instead of Chuck’s [Market in Harrisville] because I’m already there,” Robert J. Bernhard, the owner of Harrisville Hardware, said in a story published Feb. 1 by the Watertown Daily Times. “They might get their hardware; they might get their pharmacy stuff there. Everything affects everything. They might go to the diner there instead of going to the Village Inn [in Harrisville]. It hurts everybody.”
Bernhard also said that the bank’s closure could affect people’s decisions about whether to move to this region. Diana Town Supervisor Zachary J. Smith expressed similar concerns about what effect this will have.
“This is going to affect a lot of people. I know we’re a small community, but it’s going to affect a lot of people,” Smith said. “It not only affects the town of Diana — the town of Pitcairn uses Community Bank; the school and I’m going to say 95% of the businesses between Diana and Pitcairn rely on the bank and then community members individually, too.”
Residents of Harrisville had previous signs that the Community Bank branch there may not last.
“The closure was not the first indication that the bank’s business model was not working at the Harrisville branch. Hours of service were cut from five to two days a week about a year and a half ago,” the article reported. “Although that changed things for business owners used to doing daily cash deposits and stocking up on change every day, it did not make it necessary to drive a half hour in each direction to do such basic — and irreplaceable — financial transactions. … Branch manager Jordyn Cox, who is also in charge of the Star Lake branch, said that all three Harrisville employees will transfer to Star Lake. Community Bank closed two branches in St. Lawrence County — Ogdensburg and Waddington — over the summer.”
It’s encouraging to see community leaders mobilize to see if another bank would be willing to open a branch in Harrisville. Smith contacted Carthage Savings and Loan as well as Northern Credit Union about opening sites in Harrisville. Both banks started branches in Croghan in 2019 after the only bank there closed.
Hopefully, the campaign to retain a bank in Harrisville will be successful. Healthy businesses are the backbone of any community, and it would be a shame to see this area adversely affected by the loss of a vital service.
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They closed three over the summer. Norwood was one of the three. When senior citizen housing is propsed, one of the considerations is services. What will the seniors expect to get in the community. Banking is one of those services. Shame on Community Bank......."Bank Happy?" Not for those communities. The bank needs to change its name.
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