PHILLIPS AND STRATTON — Residents of Phillips and Stratton area said they were relieved Wednesday after a regional bank announced it would keep two bank branches open in the communities.

Skowhegan Savings Bank announced Wednesday that it will buy Camden National Bank’s branches in Phillips and Stratton as well as the ones in Farmington, Kingfield and Rangeley.

Camden National announced in April that it will close the Phillips and Stratton branches June 28, which would have made the nearest bank at least 20 miles away in Kingfield.

Elaine Hubbard, Phillips town manager, said the announcement was an exciting surprise.
“It’s almost like waking up Christmas morning,” Hubbard said.

She said the town is in the middle of an effort to revitalize, and it’s important to have local banks to promote business in the area. She also added that town residents and businesses did not want an empty building in the town.

After the decision to close the branches was announced, local officials and business owners contacted their state representities, as well as trying to court other banks into expanding to the area, while searching for a way to keep the branches open.

John Witherspoon, president and CEO of Skowhegan Savings and a Kingfield resident, said the purchases were initiated after he was contacted several times by residents about taking over the closing branches.

Witherspoon said the company is optimistic about its first Franklin County branches because the bank already operates in similar rural markets. He said since the Skowhegan-based company does not have shareholders, it answers to the area residents and can focus on the community’s banking needs.

All employees would be retained under the changeover, he said, and the customers shouldn’t be affected by the change.

Eustis First Selectmen Jay Wyman said he spoke with business owners and residents after hearing the branch in Stratton, a village in Eustis, would stay open and said they were all “kind of ecstatic.”

If the Stratton bank branch closed, the closest bank would be 20 miles south in Kingfield. He said officials were concerned businesses would have to take a 40-mile round trip to make a bank deposit. He also said the town’s elderly population might have a difficult time traveling a long distance to bank.

Gregory A. Dufour, president and CEO of Camden National Bank, said in a news release the purchase was a “mutually beneficial and a unique opportunity” for both banks that “benefits customers and communities of each institution by strengthening each organization’s commitment to Maine-based community banking.”

Through the purchase, Skowhegan Savings will acquire approximately $86.9 million in deposits, $43.7 million in loans and $600,000 in real estate and equipment. Skowhegan Savings has 10 branches in Somerset, Kennebec and Penobscot Counties.

Skowhegan Savings is closing its Belgrade branch this summer and opening a new branch 10 miles south in Augusta, leaving that town without a bank. Officials have said the bank will still maintain an ATM in Belgrade.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252
[email protected]

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