Clairton residents fight to keep lone bank open

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CHERYL HURT

 

About 60 concerned Clairton residents, business owners and city officials convened for a town hall meeting on May 16 in an effort to keep the city’s only bank—a PNC located at 571 Miller Avenue—open.

“We are all here because we’re devastated that PNC is closing. The only bank we have is leaving Clairton,” said Cheryl Hurt, president of the Community Economic Development Corporation of Clairton and moderator of the meeting. The bank is set to close on Aug. 16.

City officials learned about the closing at the end of April when representatives from the bank attended a meeting and stated that decreased foot traffic inside the bank and in monthly transactions from 7.500 to 4,200, combined with an increase in debit card use, online and smart phone banking, called for the bank’s closure.

“PNC said one of their biggest issues is that our branch’s busiest days are the first, second and third of the month and that people are not investing money into this branch,” said Councilwoman Kathy Tachoir. “They are looking at profitability. They said that the older people that have money are dying off and their heirs—most of which are from out of state—are taking the money out and putting it into different places.”

Bank accounts will be transferred to Elizabeth’s PNC branch, approximately five miles away. There are several other PNC branches in the area including Pleasant Hills, Dravosburg and McKeesport.

In addition to residents, many of the city’s entities including the school district, US Steel and the municipal authority conduct their banking at PNC.

“The school district does the majority of its banking at PNC and we have an investment there with 14 million dollars in revenue and a 3 million dollar budget at PNC at all times. It’s very convenient for us right now to just walk a block to the bank than to travel four or five miles to put money in the bank,” said School District Business Manager, Charles Lanna. “If the bank closes we will have to either continue with PNC or figure out other alternatives.”

Councilman Richard Ford said the city is looking into getting another bank to come into the city possibly at the current PNC location or at the former First Commonwealth Bank, which closed in 2011.

“We will meet with any other bank to give our citizens full banking. We are not giving up. We want to have a full service bank in Clairton,” Ford said.

According to Tachoir, PNC is planning on putting a drive-through ATM at the city building and a walk-up machine is already available at Livingston’s Pharmacy.

That didn’t sit well with residents who said they learned about the closing via word of mouth. Customers are expected to get letters about the closing sometime this month.

“I have a senior mother and I go to the bank for her,” said resident Joyce Hammons. “PNC is saying that seniors are going to learn how to use a smart phone and online banking? My mother can’t do it. Elderly people can’t program their televisions. What makes PNC think that the elderly can do that? Are they going to train them?”

Clairton officials said the bank may meet with officials at the city building to hold training classes there and possibly with CEDCC officials to conduct training at that facility.
No one from PNC was present at the meeting.

In addition to Clairton, PNC will close 10 other branches within the next three months as a way to cut costs. Some of those other bank branches include the Millers Run branch in Cecil, the Broad Avenue location in Belle Vernon, and a Forbes Avenue location in Oakland.

PNC is Pittsburgh’s largest bank and it plans to close 200 branches by the end of the year.

“The bank is big business and when Clairton was booming we could make a play,” said Lattanzi. “These are people who have cars and iphones and smart phones and they don’t know how the people in the city of Clairton are. They don’t know our problems.”

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