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Cortes Islanders ‘disgusted’ by credit union closure

People are “disgusted” by Coastal Community Credit Union’s decision to close the only bank on Cortes Island, according to Cortes director Noba Anderson.

Anderson herself is not happy with the credit union and wrote a joint letter with the mayor of Alert Bay and the regional director for Sointula to protest the closure of all three of the communities’ branches.

Anderson particularly took exception to the fact the community was never approached or notified of the impending decision.

“This was done with absolutely no consultation with the communities,” Anderson told the Strathcona Regional District board April 9.

“There’s substantial concern from the business community as well as individuals.”

Coastal Community Credit Union announced it will be closing its branches and ATMs in Alert Bay, Sointula and Cortes Island on July 5.

The hours of operation at its Quadra Island branch will also be reduced.

In their letter to the credit union, Anderson, Alert Bay Mayor Michael Berry, and Sointula regional director Heidi Soltau, said the credit union’s actions go against its vision statement and values.

“Your decision to withdraw all services does not build healthier communities, and shows a stunning lack of co-operation, innovation and responsiveness to the community and your members,” wrote the trio.

“It reeks of poor practice that this decision was made and announced immediately after the close of your annual board election, leaving the new board to deal with the aftermath of this decision.”

Anderson said the worst part is the missed opportunities.

“The real kicker, in my personal opinion, is if Coastal Community Credit Union knew this was coming and was at liberty to share this, it would have been a phenomenal library,” said Anderson, referring to Vancouver Island Regional Library’s search for a new venue to re-locate its Cortes Island library branch. “It’s right next to the community centre. People are just disgusted.”

Anderson, Berry and Soltau are now left picking up the pieces in their communities and are trying to work out some viable alternatives.

But they want financial information from the credit union to help them understand the situation.

“If we are going to be left without any of your services, we will need to find other options,” reads the letter.

“At the very least, the numbers you provide could help with our future financial searches”

The communities are also want copies of the minutes of the board meeting at which the decision to close the branches was made – or at the very least a detailed summary of the decision – as well as financial statements from the past three years for each branch; the operating costs for the three branches; the shortfalls; the factors that contributed to the shortfalls; and the alternatives that were examined.

Anderson, Berry and Soltau also want a commitment from Coastal Community Credit Union to engage their communities with any decisions related to future use, lease or sale of the buildings and land which the credit union owns.

“These spaces have served our communities longer than you have and it is in our interest that they continue to do so,” reads their letter. “Each of our communities had local built credit unions that you took over. You inherited land, buildings, customers, and assets. You also inherited communities – communities that you have now dropped.”

Adrian Legin, president and CEO of Coastal Community Credit Union, said while the decision to close the branches was a difficult one, it was also necessary.

“I’m confident the actions we’re taking are the right ones and in the best long-term interest of our 110,000 members and clients, and our organization as a whole,” Legin said. “Despite considerable efforts in the last several years, these specific branches have not been financially viable. We determined that the level of subsidization being provided is not justifiable over the long term.”

Anderson said the communities understand these are difficult financial times but that some degree of continued service is expected.

Anderson said she, Berry, and Soltau expect to speak with the Coastal Community Credit Union board chair and senior staff in Parksville this Saturday.

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