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Arnold’s lone bank to close by mid-February

By mid-February, the city’s only bank will close and people here are concerned.

Fred Solomon, spokesman for PNC Financial Services, confirmed the PNC bank at Fifth Avenue and 18th Street will be closing.

“We will mail letters to customers,” Solomon said.

He said the accounts at the branch, which include most of the Arnold government’s accounts, will be transferred to the branch on Freeport Road in New Kensington, across from the Army Reserve Center. It’s about a mile away from the current Arnold branch.

Sandra Danison, president of Arnold Chamber of Commerce, and her brother, Sam Lombardo, who operate Sam’s Pop Shop along Fifth Avenue, met with a regional manager from PNC last week to protest the closing and present the case for keeping it open.

But they were unsuccessful, as the PNC officials said business at that branch is down.

“We cannot afford to lose the bank,” Danison said prior their meeting with PNC. “It brings money into town and it makes us more viable as a community.

“They should be ashamed, a big corporation like that, to just walk away from the community.”

Lombardo said, “I told him you’re leaving these people in the highrises — all these people who have been loyal to you for years — you’re just leaving them flat as a pancake.”

He said he emphasized that Arnold residents and business people don’t necessarily have an allegiance to PNC, but they are loyal to whatever bank is at that corner.

“It’s been the Bank of Arnold as far as we are concerned,” Lombardo said. “They don’t realize, we are loyal to our community, we are loyal to each other as businessmen.”

He said he would pay a little more to do business at a local bank rather than bank out of town. Lombardo said he may move his business account elsewhere.

City Treasurer Joseph Puet said tax records show PNC owns the building, which is valued at around $275,000.

That concerns John Mandak, owner of Valos Candy along Fifth Avenue, just a few hundred feet from the bank.

“I think they would be reluctant to let another bank in there,” Mandak said.

Puet agreed with Mandak’s assessment.

“If you’re in corporate and you lease that building to another bank, people are likely to have their accounts there and then you’ve cut yourself out of all those accounts,” he said.

When asked if PNC would sell the building, Pat McMahon, another PNC spokesman, would only say, “In situations where we own the branch buildings, we take a thoughtful approach and welcome input from the community as far as the decision-making process.”

Danison and Lombardo say they were told that PNC would keep an automatic teller machine at the site. PNC would not confirm that.

The Arnold business is concerned that if PNC keeps an ATM in operation, it’s unlikely another bank will relocate there.

“I don’t need an ATM machine,” Danison said. “The store on the corner has an ATM. We need the services a bank provides.”

Outside the bank last week, Chester Green of New Kensington, owner of the two buildings next to it, sees the closing as a blow to the business district, giving people a reason to go elsewhere to buy goods and services. He plans to open a breakfast shop next year in the building adjacent to the bank and figured people coming by to do banking might stop and get something to eat.

“It’s not the heart beat of the town but it is an organ that is important to the town,” Green said. “We don’t need PNC, but we do need a bank.”

Regular customers also were not happy to hear the news.

“This is outrageous,” said Christine Kozlowski, 60, of New Kensington. “This bank deals with a lot of people who walk. They can’t walk to Lower Burrell; they’ll die.” The other PNC Bank location is across the street from Lower Burrell.

She referred to senior citizens who live at the city’s two highrise buildings nearby as well as in other housing around the city.

Kozlowski also expressed concerned about the bank’s employees. Solomon would not say how many work at the bank or discuss their status.

“The people who provide service to the customers are the reason why people keep coming back and these people are excellent,” Kozlowski said.

Robert Soroka, 63, also of New Kensington, said, “I don’t like it. I like coming up here.”

“I’ve been banking there since 1945, ” said Walter Rewnicki, 89, of Arnold. “I live here — it’s only a few blocks from my house.”

He said he drives but not that often, and now he’ll probably have to drive to the PNC branch on Freeport Road.

Even before Danison and Lombardo met with PNC representatives, Solomon said the decision is final and won’t be reconsidered.

As for the reasons, he said, “It’s largely an issue of efficiency and customer use of the branch.”

Mandak said there probably will be a few meetings of business people to discuss trying to attract another bank to town.


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