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   These are the stories we are working on for this week's newspaper:
  • Quick fix: A plumbing problem is forcing the Plumas Unified School District to move its headquarters to the former probation building.
  • Lesser charges: A former Chester Public Utility District general manager pleaded guilty to reduced charges last month in connection with unauthorized use of a district credit card at a Reno strip club.

Community fights for bank branch

  The citizens of Eastern Plumas County are not letting their Bank of America branch go without a fight.

  Many organizations and authorities have voiced their concerns and intentions to stand up for the institution that has been a part of Portola for more than 50 years.

  On Friday, March 15, Bank of America announced it would be permanently closing the Portola branch. A Portola branch employee also said the bank would not be offering any ATM services for the area, and is suggesting customers travel to the other centers in Quincy, Oroville, Reno or Truckee to take care of any of their banking needs.

  Community members have expressed their concerns not only with having to travel at least 50 miles round trip to get cash out, but also the loss of the six jobs the bank provides.

  Colleen Haggerty, a spokesperson for Bank of America, said the bank is taking the loss of jobs into consideration.

  “When a banking center closes, we provide various forms of assistance to impacted employees, including helping them find other opportunities within the company whenever possible,” said Haggerty.

  However, according to a Portola bank employee who asked not to be named, the workers are all community members. For them, the idea of having to transfer to another bank in Reno, or even in Quincy, is discouraging.

  “It’s the six jobs that really have me bothered,” said County Supervisor Jon Kennedy. “We really can’t afford to lose six more jobs. We can’t afford to lose any jobs. It’s just another black eye in Eastern Plumas County.”

  Not only will the area suffer from the loss of jobs, residents will also be burdened with the long drive to another banking center and risk not being able to access Bank of America facilities at all.

  Leslie Ross, owner of River Pines Resort in Graeagle, said she has been battling with the bank since she heard about the closure.

  “A decision was made without anybody really looking at the geographical area that they would be impacting,” said Ross.

  In fact, Ross said she was told all of her banking information would be transferred to the Bank of America location in Oroville, even though it is 2-1/2 hours away.

  Ross, along with the newly formed Concerned Citizens for the Closure of the Bank of America, has asked for the help of the Eastern Plumas Chamber of Commerce and the community. They are asking residents to send letters to Bank of America headquarters. These letters express to the bank the hardship and inconvenience customers would suffer once the bank is closed, and ask that the bank reconsider its closure.

  “We are going to take this to the highest level,” said Ross. “I’m still in the day and age where I need cash and I’m not going to travel 50 miles just to take cash out.”

  So far the bank has not indicated any plans to change its decision. But Ross said she is getting many responses and letters that she is using to get the bank’s attention.

  “This could force people to go to a bank they may not want to go to. Instead of yanking the rug, why don’t we just cut back hours?” said Ross.

  Haggerty said this was a business decision based on the costs of running the location verses customer use and growth potential.

  “Maybe this is a good opportunity for Bank of America customers to shift their banking to a local bank,” said Kennedy.

  “We realize the closure of this banking center is an inconvenience to many customers,” said Haggerty. “However, with the significant rise in customers accessing accounts through mobile and online methods, transactions at this location declined.”

  “Many business customers rely on this branch not only for their day in and day out business and personal banking, but often their customers coming into the area require the services of this branch for their banking needs,” said Ross.

  Ross said she has received an overwhelming response from community members concerning the letters that will be sent to the bank. Also according to Ross, Assemblyman Brian Dahle and Sen. Ted Gaines have been notified of the impending issue.

  For more information on the bank closure, customers can talk to Portola bank personnel. To obtain a letter to sign and send to Bank of America, contact the Eastern Plumas Chamber of Commerce at 836-6811.

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