Donora mayor wants to lure bank to town
By Chris Buckley
Published: Monday, Feb. 4, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Just over three months ago, three banks operated branch offices in Donora.
In less than three months, the last of those banks will close its doors.
But Mayor John Lignelli vowed he is making it his mission to recruit a bank to his community.
“We're not going to stand back and have no bank in Donora,” Lignelli said.
Lignelli said a decision on future banking in Donora might come as soon as the end of the month.
Citizens Bank will close its Donora branch at 501 McKean Ave. 6 p.m. April 26, customers learned in letters most received last Monday. The announcement came just a week after PNC Bank announced it would close its Donora branch, just a block away at 601 McKean Ave., on April 19.
At the end of October, First Federal Savings Bank closed its Donora branch.
Lignelli said he spoke several days ago with an executive at Citizens Bank Corporate Offices in Philadelphia who told the mayor, “We never reverse our decisions.”
He also met with James Balouris, executive vice president/retail banking for PNC Financial Services Group Inc. Balouris told Lignelli that his corporation has closed 16 banks in the region, the result of changing banking habits by consumers who rely more on on-line banking and ATMs.
The mayor noted that Donora is the only community among those losing its PNC branch that has no other banks in town.
The mayor and Balouris also discussed the future of the PNC branch building.
Balouris said PNC will try to sell the 601 McKean Ave. site. But, if the building remains on the market more than six months, bank officials will consider offering the building to Donora. Only the furniture would be removed, leaving the site a prime home for a new bank.
Lignelli said the borough, if it acquires the building, would offer it at a very low rent in order to entice a new bank to the site.
Balouris declined to comment on the meeting, referring calls to the bank's corporate communications department.
“We consider our meetings with public officials to be private and don't comment on them,” said Marcey Zwiebel, a spokeswoman for PNC.
“We're going to continue working on this,” Lignelli said. “We're not giving up.”
Lignelli may already be targeting a potential bank for the borough. He met during the past week with Patrick O'Brien, president and chief executive officer of First Federal Savings Bank in Monessen.
O'Brien told The Valley In-dependent it was “not an easy decision” to close its Donora branch, but it was eased by the fact that there were two other banks in town at the time.
“It was the right decision at the time, considering the challenges Donora had with bridge closing and other factors Donora faced over the years,” O'Brien said.
“We're always looking for ways to best allocate our resources to serve our customers and at the same time assure long-time viability of the bank.”
O'Brien said he is not sure if a brand new scenario was created potentially for his bank with PNC and Citizens banks deciding to close their Donora branches.
“The people of Donora are very loyal and changing banks is not easy whether you're a consumer or a retail business,” O'Brien said. “I don't know if customer would come to us or any other bank.
“We remain very committed to the Mid Mon Valley. At our branch in Rostraver Township, we've made sign improvements so we can serve the people throughout the entire valley.”
O'Brien acknowledged he spoke with Lignelli at the mayor's request, after Citizens Bank made its announcement. Lignelli asked O'Brien if First Federal Savings Bank officials would reconsider its decision to pull out of Donora.
O'Brien said he listened to, and was receptive, to Lignelli's request.
“I feel good with the conversation with First Federal,” Lignelli said. “He (O'Brien) said, ‘I'll do my best.' Pat has a good relationship with his board of directors.”
Lignelli said O'Brien indicated he would have an answer for Lignelli by the end of February.
“I'm willing to go out and get commitments from people,” Lignelli said. “The majority of the people will start banking with him. I will definitely take a personal survey and get commitments for him.
“I'll do anything he wants that will guarantee he will be satisfied with the business he gets. I have a lot of faith in First Federal.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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