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Pleas fail to overturn decision to close bank branch in Zurich

DEBORA VAN BRENK, Free Press Regional Reporter   2004-01-14 03:49:13  

Bank of Montreal officials were unmoved by Zurich residents' objections last night to the imminent closing of the community's only bank branch. About 80 people gathered at a meeting to offer arguments for keeping the branch open beyond next June.

But "their minds were made up," Bluewater Mayor Bill Dowson said after the heated 90-minute session.

He said many on hand figured the meeting might be one in which they could persuade a change of heart; while the bank officials' aim was evidently to explain the reasons for the decision.

Bank representatives suggested they may offer a twice-a-month shuttle service for Zurich seniors to the Hensall branch -- an assurance Dowson called little more than a "gesture."

"They're getting a little touchy with the rural people who've dealt with them all their life."

For Zurich's 900 residents, the closest place for banking service will be at a Bank of Montreal branch in Hensall or any of a number of banks in Exeter.

In spite of pleas from locals, Bank of Montreal representatives also said the automated teller won't remain in town either.

"They made it quite plain that wasn't going to happen," Dowson said.

Bluewater Township officials, of which both Zurich and Hensall are a part, made a formal presentation last night in which they expressed "dismay and disappointment" over the decision. "In these times where small urban communities in Ontario are struggling to remain viable . . . the loss of banking services is very damaging."

This closing is part of a flurry of recent closings in small communities.

Three years ago the CIBC pulled out of Bayfield, a resort community whose population balloons to 10,000 some summer weekends, as bank officials said the community was too small to support a branch.

Last July, CIBC also closed its Ailsa Craig branch after keeping a presence there for more than a century.

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