SFCU President, Vice President Meet With Morris Residents To Discuss Bank Opening
Published: May 29th, 2024

SFCU President, Vice President meet with Morris residents to discuss bank opening SFCU President and CEO Jim Reynolds, Elaine Frederick, Carol Nealis, Debbie Newell, and SFCU Vice President of Sales and Marketing Andrew Smith discuss the opening of an SFCU branch in Morris at a meeting held at the Morris Firehouse on May 23. (Submitted photo)

MORRIS — Approximately 30 residents from Morris and the Butternut Valley gathered at the Morris Firehouse at 7 p.m. on May 23 for a follow-up to the news that Sidney Federal Credit Union (SFCU) intends to establish banking services in the Village of Morris.

The meeting was organized by the Butternut Valley Alliance, whose task force began working to find an alternate bank when Community Bank, N.A. (CBNA) ended 167 years of banking services in Morris on January 19.

Present at the meeting were SFCU president and CEO Jim Reynolds and Andrew Smith, SFCU’s vice president of sales and marketing, who gave updates on the status of the SFCU-BVA agreement and answered questions from the public. The meeting was recorded and is available on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ts9npx1mKE.

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As opposed to a bank, which has shareholders and is publicly traded, a credit union is a not-for-profit money cooperative whose members can borrow from pooled deposits at low interest rates. SFCU was formed in 1949 at the instigation of Scintilla Magneto Corporation employees, who paid $25 each to fund an application fee to secure a charter. That same year, the charter was granted by the Bureau of Credit Unions.

SFCU has 11 branches spanning parts of Broome, Oneida, and Herkimer counties, as well as all of Chenango, Delaware, Otsego, Cortland, Onondaga, Madison, Schoharie, Montgomery, Fulton, Hamilton, and Essex counties.

“All members of SFCU have an equal voice and equal voting rights,” Smith said.

Smith also emphasized SFCU’s involvement in the community.

“We want to give back to the community,” he said, noting that SFCU sends team members to speak at schools about financial education, sponsors youth sports groups, offers “shred days,” and supports over 100 non-profit organizations. In partnership with the National Forest Service, SFCU also plants a tree for every new member or business joining the credit union.

Maggie Brenner, leader of BVA’s “Save Our Bank” task force, stated that much work is still to be done before a full-service operation is up and running.

A top priority at this point is to pursue designation as a Banking Development District (BDD), an initiative fostered by the New York State Department of Financial Service (DFS) and designed to encourage the establishment of branch banks in underserved areas across the state.

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According to the DFS website, to be designated as a BDD, the application must demonstrate not only that the community is in serious need of banking services, but also that this need is not being met by existing nearby financial institutions. The applicant must also show that by establishing a new branch in the proposed district, the institution is prepared to meet the specific, identified unmet need and that there is strong community support for the BDD designation.

To encourage participation in the BDD program, $10 million in subsidized public deposits and other benefits are made available by the state to banks and credit unions that open a branch in these communities. Banks and credit unions successfully applying for BDD designation are eligible to receive below market-rate deposits from New York State. These provisions are intended to diminish potential financial risks subsequent to opening.

BVA has already obtained letters of support from the town governments of Morris, Butternuts, and New Lisbon, and the villages of Gilbertsville and Morris. A major advantage of a BDD is that both municipalities and school districts, not normally allowed to bank at credit unions, may do so if they have signed letters of support for a BDD.

BVA is now asking for letters of support from the community at large. Letters should be sent to “Save Our Bank” task force member Jim Tremlett at jim@jimtremlett.com.

“Community support will speed up the process,” Smith said.

Brenner said that SFCU is committed to offering services in Morris as soon as possible. The time frame for opening up is 6 months to one year. An immediate need is to find a location for a field office where people can open accounts or buy share certificates, which are similar to certificates of deposits.

BVA is asking for community input on available office space. At the meeting, the idea of using a trailer as a temporary office was floated – a concept which jibes with SFCU’s intent, stated by Reynolds, to invest in a mobile unit to work with other communities. Its primary focus will be in communities that have lost banks.

Suggestions about a bank location may be sent to Brenner at brenner_maggie@yahoo.com.

Brenner ma.de a point of dispelling the rumor that CBNA would not sell the building it formerly occupied in Morris if it were to be used by another bank. She also said that the task force is working to educate legislators about the significant impact bank closings have on rural communities. She said she hopes that BVA’s success to date draws a blueprint for affected communities in their efforts to restore banking services.

“We are continuing to have positive conversations with Community Bank. The building is not currently for sale and will not be [for sale] in the near future due to internal procedures of CBNA."

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Brenner also wanted people to know that those who own property in the area but have a permanent address elsewhere are still eligible to become members of SFCU.

Task force member Peter Martin urged the community to network with local business to encourage them to sign up with SFCU.

“There are many smaller, lesser-known businesses who should know about SFCU,” Martin said.

Reynolds complimented the task force on its work, describing it as a “tenacious group with no quit in them.”

BVA board members include Ed Lentz, Bob Thomas, Tom Washbon, Jason Cianciotto, Peter Martin, and task force leader Maggie Brenner. Members at large are former Town of Morris Supervisor John DiStefano, Jim Tremlett, Arlene Martin, Peter Martin, and Andrea Hull.

“We are excited to join the community. A rural designation is in our community charter and we are member-centric. We need brick-and-mortar banks to support the communities we serve,” Reynolds said.

-Information provided by SFCU