by BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The reality of a persistent sluggish economy in southern West Virginia will take its toll on a pair of services that the community has counted on for years. Iaeger-based Pioneer Community Bank recently told customers of its branches in Northfork and Bradshaw that the branch banks will close on Dec. 31, 2013.
“It’s an economic situation,” Jim Sizemore, president of Pioneer Community Bank said. “We have had those two branches for five years since we bought Ameribank and we have lost money every year. It’s strictly a business decision.”
The branch in Northfork started out as the First Clark Bank, and Pioneer’s Bradshaw branch is the last remnant of the First National Bank of Keystone that collapsed 14 years ago on Sept. 1, 1999.
“This will leave the Northfork area without a bank for the first time in decades, and will create unreasonable hardships on residents, many of whom are senior citizens who have trouble traveling to to another branch or making use of electronic banking,” the Reverend Timothy Hairston wrote in an email message, stating his concerns about the branch’s closing.
“The closing will have a negative impact on existing businesses and churches,” Hairston, pastor of Mount Ebenezer Baptist Church in Algoma said. “Even people who aren’t Pioneer Community Bank customers will feel the impact of the branch’s closure,” he added.
“There’s not a lot here,” Hairston wrote. “Closing the branch would be a big blow.”
Sizemore acknowledged that closing the branch would impact customers. “That’s also true for the Bradshaw branch,” he said. “It’s 14 miles to Iaeger for those customers. It’s about 13 miles from Northfork to Welch. It might even be closer for customers (further south) to go to Mercer County.
“This is not something that just came up,” Sizemore said. “We’ve been working on it for a long time. You can’t stay in business if you keep losing money. We felt like it was time to make these changes and close these two branches.”
Pioneer Community Bank Inc., and Citizens Savings Bank acquired all of the deposits of Northfork-based Ameribank on Sept. 19, 2008 after the Office of the Thrift Supervision ordered Ameribank closed and appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to serve as receiver. Pioneer assumed all deposits of the two Ameribank locations in West Virginia — Northfork and Bradshaw — and Citizens Savings Bank took over deposits of the three branches in Ohio.
In June 2008, Ameribank reported assets of $115 million and total deposits of $102 million.
— Contact Bill Archer at email@example.com