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North Belle Vernon PNC cashing out

| Friday, April 5, 2013, 12:56 a.m.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
PNC Bank in North Belle Vernon on Broad Avenue is slated to be closed.
This photo of three parallel bridges: the original Belle Vernon-Speers Bridge, the newer Belle Vernon-Speers Bridge and the Belle Vernon Railroad Bridge, was taken in 1954.
McClure’s Restaurant and a billiard parlor at the corner of Main and Second streets in Belle Vernon sometime in the 1880s.

When PNC Vice President-Regional Manager Samuel Rotellini phoned North Belle Vernon Mayor Ed Lyons on Monday and said he needed to meet with him, the mayor guessed that it wasn't going to be good news.

“I was in Pittsburgh at the time, and I told him I could be in town at 1 o'clock,” Lyons said. “From the minute they walked in the door, I knew what was coming.”

PNC's North Belle Vernon branch will close July 19.

“The decision was rendered. It wasn't a negotiation,” Lyons said. “They're going to let their employees and the public know by a letter around April 14.”

“There wasn't any, ‘What if we do this for you?' or ‘How about we do that.' The shot was fired. They're pulling out, and that's it.

“It's the banking business now. They're retrofitting their business so they can make a profit.”

They told Lyons the decision was partially driven by the availability of online banking and new technology.

The meeting with Rotellini and Branch Manager Larry Golashewski didn't last long, but they did say an ATM machine will remain operational. The machine is frequented by many patrons of Jake's Pizza and the Foster House, which accept only cash as payment.

“They're forcing people to go to another bank. That's what they're doing,” Lyons said of PNC. “North Belle Vernon is unique. If you want a haircut, you can walk. If you want to go get a pizza, you can walk to Jake's. If you want to go grab a drink, you walk.

“A lot of people walked to do their banking. They're taking that away. Now the older people in town that don't drive will have to use the bus or make an appointment to go out (to Tri-County Plaza in Rostraver Township) to do their banking. It's a rat race out there. No one likes going out there.”

Lyons said he's heard rumors of the closing, adding there is a high possibility PNC will sell the building, which housed the former Bell Telephone exchange and the Mid-Mon Valley Council of Governments.

“A bank is a community staple,” Lyons said. “Who's to say that another bank won't buy the building and come into town? With the way the banking industry is now, I don't know if that will happen.”

Lyons, who is retiring April 30, said he is sad that PNC is leaving town. And he fears it's the beginning of a downward cycle.

Craig Ambrose, who was appointed by council to serve the remainder of Lyons' term beginning May 1, said he want to meet with Rotellini and Golashewski.

Ambrose is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination for mayor in May's primary election. There is no Republican candidate.

“I'd love to see them stay here,” Ambrose said of PNC. “The small towns are how all the banks got started. Now they all want to move from those towns.”

Ambrose said other banks have left the borough.

“We've always gotten another bank. I hope to try to find another bank,” Ambrose said.

“The shame of it is ... the people in this town have always stuck with the next bank that moves in there.

“PNC doesn't care that they're going to lose the people's money by leaving. It's going to hurt. There's a lot of people in town that have used that bank. The people were faithful. It's like they're just dumping on them.”

“Customer convenience isn't a concern of PNC,” Lyons said. “It's not very high on their list. It's all about reducing the payroll and the overhead.”

Lyons hopes the building won't sit empty for long.

“I never remember it being empty. It's been renovated a couple of times, and if it sells, there is some work that will need to be done,” he said. “Maybe a group of lawyers or another bank will come in there. That building is like Fort Knox; it's a big, strong building. It has potential.”

Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jsellew@tribweb.com or 724-684-2667.

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