April 06, 2020

Calais mayor not happy with savings and loan merger

CALAIS – A merger of two savings and loan associations does not have the stamp of approval of the mayor or the support of the City Council.

Although Calais Federal Savings and Loan and Gardiner Savings Institution really don’t need it.

But the opposition does cut into the public relations image of the merger.

Last week, Calais Federal – located on the corner of Main and North streets – announced plans to merge with Gardiner Savings Institution.

Mayor Vinton Cassidy said Friday he hopes the Calais board of directors would reconsider its decision. He said the merger would represent a loss in local control.

Dan Hollingdale, chairman of Calais Federal, said Friday night the board appreciated letters from the public. “Anytime we can hear from anyone from the town or our customers we’re always glad to read the letters and take it under advisement,” Hollingdale. He said the next regular meeting of the board was in November.

The change, recently approved by the banks’ boards of directors, is subject to regulatory approval, with the actual change anticipated in the first quarter of 2007.

Cassidy was not happy with the announcement, and he received the support of the council at its meeting Thursday night.

The mayor sent a letter to the board and S&L chief executive officer Dennis Brown.

“As you know from its inception, savings and loan associations were created to be a mutually owned institution by the depositors and the borrowers. I feel this is why CFSL has been such an important part of our economic base here in Calais,” the mayor said.

In an interview Friday, Cassidy said that city’s local S&L has grown. “You now have almost $60 million in assets, and capital of over $8 million,” the mayor said.

He compared the loss in local control to Ross Perot, who while campaigning for the presidency several yeas ago, compared NAFTA and the jobs lost to Americans as that “big sucking sound.” “It’s the same here: We’re going to lose money out of the community and whatever they do it’s going to go to Gardiner,” the mayor said.

“I hope you will reconsider your decision and keep CFSL as a real asset to the city of Calais,” the mayor added in his letter.

Gardiner Savings, established in 1834, is the second-oldest savings bank in Maine. With assets totaling more than $750 million, the bank has a solid footprint in central and midcoast Maine with more than 20 branch locations. It is also in the process of acquiring First Citizens Bank, headquartered in Presque Isle, adding $135 million in assets and five branch offices.

When both mergers have been completed, Gardiner Savings will have a footprint extending from central Maine and the midcoast area to Down East Maine and Aroostook County. The bank’s assets will approach $1 billion, allowing it to increase the amounts it can lend to borrowers in the regions the bank will serve. “We don’t need a billion dollars in assets,” he said. “Sometimes big isn’t always the best.”

Correction: This article ran on page C2 in the State edition.

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