Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What's Happened at Northwest Savings Bank

Well, tonight's the night when the Austin Borough Council meets to accept or reject the Agreement presented to our Community prohibiting us from forever using their former branch office on Turner Street as a financial institution.

I have read and re-read a Press Release dated May 5, 2014, WARREN, Pa.,/PRNewswire/ listing the awards Northwest Savings Bank earned in 2014, as I still cannot believe this is the same banking institution who should know that our not having a financial institution in town will severely  hinder our recovery from a disastrous 2014.

In 2014, J.D. Power ranked them the "Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Retail Banking in the Mid-Atlantic Region.  This was their fourth award in five years from J.D. Power.

Also, in 2014, they were named to the "Bank Honor Roll" by Keefe, Bruyette and Woods. which is a list of thirty-one top performing banks in the country for the previous ten years.

Forbes included Northwest Savings Bank in their 2014 list of "The Top 50 Most Trustworthy Financial Companies in American."

NWSB President and CEO William J. Wagner was quoted in the article as making the following statement, "We are pleased with the significant recognition Northwest has received in 2014 as it demonstrates our company's commitment to building loyalty, trust and value among our employees, customers, communities and shareholders".

I can understand Northwest Savings Bank wanting to increase shareholder value.  That's the name of the game.  What I can't understand is their wanting their cake and eating it too at our expense.  We are a community of about 600 people striving to survive.  We have individuals buying and creating businesses in our community. They obviously believe that their is money to be made here. Our school, the smallest in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is a public school in a private school setting.  The Austin Area School District is at the forefront of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). They consistently meet the Annual Yearly Progress standards and are frequently cited for various educational awards.  This past week's Endeavor contained two articles on the Austin Area School District.  One article was titled "Smart Lab coming to Austin" and the other "Recognized as 'distinguished school' at Title 1 Conference."  It is also noteworthy that they already have a 3-D printer inhouse.

Furthermore, I have heard the word "gift" used a couple of times describing Northwest Savings Bank giving the building on Turner Street to our Community.  They have valued this piece of property at $46,033.68 and will write this off as Goodwill or in some other manner. So, with this write-off and the use restriction, they are really putting it to the Community of Austin.

Who out there believes that this is a fair deal for the Community of Austin?


  1. Since Northwest Savings Bank ceased operations in Austin, rumors abound as to what use the building would have in the community.  I have some thoughts that I, as a taxpayer in our community, would like to share with you this evening.

    First:  The offer of the building as a gift to the community.  A GIFT is only a gift when there are no strings attached.  Therefore, there needs to be some serious discussion as to the Borough's ACCEPTANCE of it in the first place.  It would be worth investigating the purchase of the building from Northwest, which would remove the noncompetition clause, which I understand to be present in the written offer.  If Northwest has deemed the building worthless to them to the extent of giving it away, then surely logic would dictate that it would be foolish for them not to accept a token purchase price for the building itself.  That would give the borough what we need in terms of finding a financial institution to come into town.

    Second:  It is disconcerting to hear that the ONLY proposed use for the building is for a Borough office.  Surely this is a case of putting the cart before the horse and this discussion should take place ONLY after the decision has been made WITH INPUT FROM ALL INTERESTED CITIZENS from the community.  If I may be so bold to ask:  What's the rush?  No decision can be sound if it is taken in haste.  I would like to go on record, as a citizen and a taxpayer, to suggest that the building would make a fine library and meeting space for the entire community, while possibly incorporating a small part for the Borough's use.  My point is:  This is by no means a "done deal" and a great deal more discussion needs to take place prior to any decision made.

    Third:  The council is meant to act in the best interests of our town, which is why each of you are elected.  It is many times a thankless task and many times you are only contacted when sommeone wants to complain.  Unfortunately, that goes with the territory.  We count on you to keep things running smoothly and you do that and have done that for many years.  However, there are some issues that NEED our input and NEED to be undertaken in a certain way, without influence by other community groups who might have only their best interests at heart.  The members of this council, in this instance, need to act as ONE by going through the proper channels in order to serve the entire community. 

    In summation, I would like to thank the council members for their service to the community.  I am sure that in the spirit of cooperation and mutual regard we can all pull together as we have done throughout our town's entire history, to achieve our goals.

    Sincerely yours,

    Teresa M. Cooney

  2. Teresa, thank you very much for such a thoughtful, well written comment.

  3. Thank you Mike. Although I wouldn't give it an "A", it was actually my notes for the meeting tonight if there is an opportunity to speak.