This is a letter to the editor written by Kitty Hall-Thurnheer. It was not written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit letters to the editor, send them to Matt Butler at mbutler@ithacavoice.com.

On Friday the 13th Ithaca’s local bank, Elmira Savings Bank, will be purchased by Community Bank N.A. This is a big win for the higher-ups at Elmira Savings Bank, some of whom will exit with a golden parachute, but a huge loss for our community. 

Elmira Savings Bank soared as a personal hometown bank with 12 local branches in the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier. The customer service was fantastic. Phones were answered before the third ring and the staff knew the clients by their first name. Their portfolio of products was diverse for both personal and business needs, and they remained competitive among the regional banks in the area. Their online platform was easy to use and they often took proactive steps for customer service like raising the daily deposit limits during the pandemic. The culture of Elmira Savings Bank is what made banking there so attractive.

Once acquired by Community Bank, NA, based out of Canton, NY, with 250 branches spreading over New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Massachusetts, our little town will simply be one of many. Customers are now forced to navigate the difficult process of changing autopays, reprinting checks, validating new debit cards, and learning a new online platform, none of which is fun.

The consumption of Elmira Savings Bank, which is being called a merger, was the brainchild of President and CEO Thomas Carr; Chairman of the Board Michael P. Hosey, and Vice Chairman and Corporate Secretary John R. Alexander, who met on May 4, 2021 and began the conversation about a merger. They are “three of the largest shareholders of the Bank” according to page 15 of the “Proxy Statement Special Meeting 12-14-21” a 172-page document on the Elmira Savings Bank website. Shortly after that meeting, they consulted an investment banking firm which helped facilitate the merger with Community Bank, NA. When the vote went to the shareholders, the bank hired Regan & Associates to help get votes which were solicited with a letter that included a sentence written in bold: “The Bank’s Board of Directors unanimously recommends that you vote “FOR” the Merger Proposal, “FOR” the Merger-Related Compensation Proposal, and “FOR” the Adjournment Proposal.” See page 1 of the Proxy Statement.

While the Elmira Savings Bank branch staff that customers see will mostly stay the same, many office staff that worked in the background are being laid off. Meanwhile, CEO Thomas Carr and CFO Jason T. Sanford will ride their Golden Parachute to a nice compensation package totaling over $2 million.

To read more about the merger, visit here for the proposal.