WILMINGTON - Residents of Wilmington lost their only full-service banking institution when Adirondack Regional Federal Credit Union shut their doors earlier this month.
Citing a need to cut costs, ARFCU closed down its Wilmington branch April 1 after more than six years in service there.
"It's going to inconvenience a lot of people," said Al Armstrong, owner of Mountain Brook Lodge in Wilmington. "If people want to continue doing their deposits, they have to go to Saranac Lake or Plattsburgh."
Credit union CEO Cathy Staves said the decision to close the Wilmington branch was a tough one to make, but necessary in the midst of rising costs.
"With the uncertainty of our economy, we are looking at all areas to keep our operational costs down," she said. "This has been an ongoing task."
Staves said other options are available to credit union members who are inconvenienced by the closing of the Wilmington branch, such as online banking, ATMs, direct deposit, and four other full-service locations.
"I do not care at all for the way they left our community," said Roy Holzer, owner of Little Supermarket. "It's a disservice to the 600 members that did their business there."
As landlord of the Wilmington branch, Holzer said he charged ARFCU just $550 per month, including utilities, to operate next door to his business. Holzer said he probably could have charged more for the space, but gave the credit union a discount to encourage the presence of a banking institution.
"I think we could have worked this out with a lot better end," said Holzer, indicating he would have negotiated the rental agreement.
Holzer said ARFCU management gave him 30 days' notice of their intent to close down the branch, but that no official announcements were mailed to credit union members in Wilmington.
"I really think it was handled unprofessionally," said town Supervisor Randy Preston, "that they didn't notify anybody in the town they were going."
According to Staves, the credit union did make announcements through local newspapers, but it is not ARFCU's policy to directly notify members of a branch's closing.
Financial records available from the National Credit Union Association indicate ARFCU experienced an overall loss of $636,000 in 2008. Staves said operation of the Wilmington branch was not causing significant losses for the institution, but was still seen as a cost-cutting measure since it was their smallest branch. All branch employees were relocated to ARFCU's four other branches.
In addition to closing the branch, Staves said ARFCU is trying to cut its costs in other areas such as postage and employee travel mileage.
Meanwhile, Holzer said he is looking for another financial institution to call Wilmington home, and lamenting the loss of its most recent.
"They were really good for the community," he said. "To a small community like Wilmington, having a place where you can do your banking makes a big difference."