PNC pulling the plug on local bank branch

EAST PALESTINE – On the cusp of a hoped-for local economic rebound as new businesses take up residence in town, one business is closing up shop.

In a letter to its customers, PNC Bank recently announced the location on North Market Street will be closed, effective April 19. The closure was verified by PNC spokesperson Amy Vargo on Friday.

Vargo said, as did the letter, that the closure is a result of the company’s “careful evaluation” of the local branches. Following that evaluation it was determined the East Palestine accounts should be moved to the Columbiana branch at 123 S. Main St.

“The bottom line is that customers are using branches very differently today and opting to go to some of the more convenient, alternate channels such as online banking and mobile banking. We always are evaluating our branch networks to make sure we’re meeting customer needs … sometimes that means consolidating branches, which is what we are seeing here,” she said.

The accounts will automatically be moved with no involvement necessary from East Palestine customers, she explained.

Customers are at liberty to move their accounts to a different branch if they so choose, she added.

PNC currently has two branches operating in Columbiana and two in East Liverpool. The East Palestine branch is the only one slated for closure.

Village Manager Pete Monteleone said he spoke with Branch Manager Richard Shimko earlier this week about what could be done to keep the bank open.

“I expressed concern and said we would work with them to keep them here,” he said.

Following the meeting Monteleone sent a letter on behalf of the village to the PNC main office urging them to reconsider, he said.

Shimko did not wish to comment on Friday, instead directing all questions to corporate.

Councilman Don Elzer said the bank is a “vital part of the community” and it’s replacement would be a “major undertaking.”

He and Monteleone also said the decision is unfortunate since shale activity in the county could change the local economic landscape at any time.

In the meantime, the bank is slated for closure, and customers have until 3 p.m. April 19 to continue using the North Market Street branch which includes indoor banking and a drive-through.

As for what will happen to the building once the move is finalized, Vargo is uncertain.

“At the moment we are really focused on customers and getting the word out to them in a timely fashion about the closing,” she said.