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Hartland residents shocked, disappointed over closure of town’s only bank

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Hartland residents upset over only bank closing
Wed, Mar 7: Residents in the town of Hartland, N.B., are upset and confused over news that the community's only bank is closing. Adrienne South reports – Mar 7, 2018

Residents and officials in Hartland, N.B., are disappointed and shocked to hear Scotiabank will be closing the town’s only bank branch this October.

Hartland Deputy Mayor Tracey DeMerchant said she was surprised to find out the bank would be closing, and said many people are angry and disappointed.

“My first reaction was surprise,” DeMerchant said.

“I received a call with really no warning to the town that something like this was going to happen.”

READ MORE: Frankford residents upset town’s only bank branch is closing

DeMerchant said a public meeting was held on Tuesday night with representatives from Scotiabank onsite. She said many people got up and left the meeting out of frustration and said the town is now in “recovery mode,” coping with the news they will have to travel to Woodstock or Florenceville-Bristol to do their banking.

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Centre Carleton Chamber of Commerce president Richard Orser said the loss of the bank will have a huge impact on local businesses.

“Unfortunately, if they have to go to do their banking in Woodstock or choose to go to Florenceville, they’ll say, ‘Well, if we have to bank there, maybe we’ll do our retail at that area as well,'” Orser said. “So it will be a definite effect to our community in the retail businesses here.”

He said there are 80 to 100 medium-to-large businesses in the town and surrounding areas, and said the Chamber has approximately 65 active members.

Orser said despite many people using online banking, it’s important to have a branch as well, especially because of the high percentage of seniors in rural communities who may not even own computers or be able to drive to neighbouring communities.

“You still have to have that personal contact I believe in rural and larger centres, and the banks profit billions of dollars per year, and to pick a small bank, in a rural community that might have seven to eight employees, maybe they should take a look at it and say, ‘Maybe we can make this work with four or five employees,” Orser said.

Orser said he does think there is room for growth in the community and said the town, which is home to the world’s longest covered bridge, sees approximately 85,000 visitors to the area between May and September. He said it’s unfortunate there won’t be a bank for tourists who bus into the town.

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“It has been stated to us that it was a profitable branch, so if it’s a profitable branch… why are they closing? They did say there wasn’t much room for growth investment here, but I think that’s false,” Orser said.

In October 2016, Scotiabank also closed its branch in the Village of Chipman, N.B. The news of this closure has residents in Hartland concerned that it could just be the start of more rural communities experiencing bank closures.

DeMerchant said the community is “resilient,” and believes it’s possible another bank could decide to come to the town.

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Historic New Brunswick bridge demolished after storm damage

Scotiabank response

In an email statement to Global News, Scotiabank spokesperson Kate Yurincich said the company is working to organize itself to better serve customers and respond to changes in the way customers do their banking.

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“After careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision to consolidate the Hartland branch into our Woodstock branch on Oct. 4, 2018. A town hall meeting, to discuss ways that we can support the community with this transition, took place on March 6, 2018,” Yurincich said.

She said the company doesn’t take these types of decisions lightly and said they recognize the inconvenience this may cause to some of its Hartland customers. Yurincich said the company remains committed to meeting with customers and helping them make the transition to the Woodstock branch as easy as possible.

She said training will also be available to residents who want assistance using mobile banking services. Scotiabank will also be increasing their hours of operation at the Woodstock branch to better serve customers.

Village of Chipman update

Village of Chipman Mayor Carson Atkinson tells Global News it’s been difficult not having a bank branch in the community.

“It’s a hardship for businesses and for seniors [and] continues to be. Yes, they put in a banking machine, but there have been lots of issues with that,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson said the Village of Chipman has approached several other banks and has looked at postal banking as an option and has met with three different institutions, and said they could not make a business case in 2016, but said they periodically contact other bank and credit unions.

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