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Murray River business owners upset over proposed bank closure

Charlene Belsher, owner of the Old General Story in Murray River, says the announced closure of the town’s CIBC branch is inconvenient for residents.
Charlene Belsher, owner of the Old General Story in Murray River, says the announced closure of the town’s CIBC branch is inconvenient for residents. - Katie Smith

MURRAY RIVER, P.E.I. - The upcoming closure of Murray River’s only bank will cause inconveniences for local businesses, says business owner Charlene Belsher.

In December, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) announced its intention to close the community branch this summer, stating a shift in banking practices as a primary reason.

Last week, more than 100 concerned residents gathered at the Murray River Community Centre to take part in a public meeting with representatives from the financial institution.

During the meeting, Belsher, owner of the Old General Store and a CIBC client for nearly 40 years, told the representatives why she disagreed with the institution’s decision.

Belsher works alone, so when she needs change for her cash register she can close the store for 10 minutes and pop over to the bank.

Once summer comes, however, this will no longer be an option.

“What am I supposed to do now? Put up a sign saying, ‘Gone to the bank, back in 45 minutes?” Belsher asked the representatives.

“It’s just not something that’s going to work for me.”

The institution decided to close the branch as banking practices shifted and more clients began using online banking services, and while this might work for some, it won’t work for everyone, Belsher said.

“Not everyone in our community has online access, and there are homes that still can’t get solid internet service,” she said. “There are many seniors that are computer illiterate. Many don’t drive anymore or can’t drive anymore.”

Transportation is an issue, she said.

“The trip to the bank, now in Montague, will further tax their caregivers with a longer drive, a longer wait in line at a busier branch. And then the senior client gets to a teller that they don’t know, that doesn’t know them or their banking history.”

In an interview following the meeting, Murray Harbour mayor Garry Herring echoed Belsher’s sentiments, saying he disagreed with the announced closure.

“It’s a blow to the community”.

Herring said was disappointed the CIBC representatives didn’t present concrete numbers.

“What I was really disappointed in here tonight is that every time they were asked for figures of any sorts, there (were) no answers,” he said.

“I believe that was a real let down tonight that they didn’t come with how many people are being serviced in this area.”
The Murray River branch, which opened on Sept. 24, 1924, will be consolidated with the Montague Banking Centre and will close its door on Aug. 23, 2018.

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