Town Leaders Aren’t Reconciled With Bank of America’s Withdrawal from Barnegat LightBeach Haven Branch Closing Also, But That Town Will Get an ATM Site
The announced closing of the Bank of America branch is a statement that customers in Barnegat Light don’t like – businesses and residents will be losing the only bank in town.
The taxpayers association leadership plans to endorse a letter-writing campaign, and the mayor said business owners are angry and upset.
Bank of America sent notices that its branches in Barnegat Light as well as Beach Haven are scheduled to close their doors on Oct. 12.
“The decision is driven by low foot traffic,” said bank representative T.J. Crawford, speaking with The SandPaper on Tuesday from the New York City office. “It comes down to this: being a responsible business decision based on the costs of running those locations vs. customer use and growth potential.”
Mayor Kirk Larson, whose family co-owns Viking Village commercial dock in town, pointed out sizeable use of the bank by the commercial fishing industry, other businesses and residents, especially in the summer.
“At Viking Village, 42 million pounds of seafood came out of there last year. It’s not just Viking Village, it’s all the boats unloading there making deposits. We’re trying to get a camp to write some letters to the executive office to see if we can’t change their mind or have them give us a seasonal thing.”
“There was a lot of concern voiced at our taxpayer meeting” about the “inconvenience,” said Barnegat Light Taxpayers Association President Steve Rabbitt on Tuesday. Association trustees are formulating an e-mail to the group’s members that will include addresses to which taxpayers can write letters to banking officials, he said.
Meanwhile, as more and more people bank online, other branch closures are planned nationwide, according to Crawford.
“Customers continue to do more of their routine transactions outside of the banking center – online or through mobile phones,” he said.
“In the case of Beach Haven, we do plan on installing a full-service ATM in town,” Crawford said.
Accountholders got the word of the closures back in June, bank representatives said. However, thoughts of the future impact were still trickling down to vacationers and others this past week.
“After careful consideration, we have decided to close our Beach Haven and Barnegat Light banking centers on Oct. 12,” Crawford summarized. “Customer letters were mailed in late June to give ample time to become familiar with our nearest locations. For both, that would be Ship Bottom, which is approximately 6 miles away from Beach Haven and 8 miles away from Barnegat Light.”
When asked how many people use the bank branches, he said that is “not a figure that we provide.”
“Ship Bottom is not going to be able to handle the whole entire Island,” Larson said. “For businesses and depositors, it’s a shame.”
Larson referred to discussion at the recent taxpayers association meeting.
Said Rabbitt, “The taxpayers association is formulating an e-mail to go out to our 542 members reminding them of the action that Bank of America is taking. Included on the e-mail and on the association web site are some draft letters should taxpayers want to voice their concern to bank officials.”
The sample letters are being “circulated to trustees for their review and comments,” he said, “and we hope to have the e-mail addresses and letters on the website (barnegatlighttaxpayer.org) in the next week or so.
“Losing their only bank that has been their landmark for years is an inconvenience to not only the residents, but the businesses in Barnegat Light,” Rabbitt continued. “It’s not just a seasonal bank; more and more residents are residing there year ’round. They’re very upset to have to drive to Ship Bottom or some other location.”
Both bank properties are owned by the bank “and will be marketed,” Crawford said.
“They’re going to market those properties in this economy?” Larson replied to that.
“I’m just beside myself trying to figure out what we could do,” the mayor said. “We had talked about maybe giving over the other side of the old Borough Hall next to the post office so that maybe a bank would come in there, but I don’t know what kind of space requirements they would have.
“October to April, we could live with it, maybe shorter hours or something, but to do it in the summertime, too – no way.”
— Maria Scandale