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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Williamstown and Greylock Federal Credit Unions May Merge

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Williamstown M.E. Federal Credit Union President Natalie "Connie" Yorke
Williamstown- The third-largest credit union in Massachusetts is planning to open a full-service branch office on Main Street, and could soon increase its assets and membership as well.

Members of the Williamstown Municipal Employee Federal Credit Union will cast ballots this month on a proposed Greylock Federal Credit Union merger.

Voting Underway

Ballots and letters about the proposal were mailed to Williamstown credit union members last week, said credit union President Natalie “Connie” Yorke. A desire to improve and add services for credit union members prompted the action, Yorke said.

“We’ve had members ask about mortgages, home equity loans, cash advances, things that we don’t have right now,” Yorke said during a telephone interview. “We thought it would be in the best interest of our customers to offer those services.”

The Greylock credit union was the optimal merger choice because of their seven decades of service to Berkshire residents and the abundance of services the institution offers, Yorke said.

“We chose the Greylock group because they’ve been around since 1935 and they’ve weathered all the ups and downs,” she said. “And they offer all the products and services that we’d like for our customers.”

Ballots may be returned in person to the credit union office at Town Hall, be mailed to the office, or delivered during a special membership meeting scheduled for mid-July, Yorke said. Results of the vote will likely be known at that meeting. Greylock members are not required to vote on the proposal, she added.

Branch Opening Planned for Fall

A new branch opening does not hinge on the vote, Greylock Vice-president of Marketing John Bissell said during a telephone interview.

“We have been planning to open a branch in Williamstown and we have signed a lease for a property at 455 Main St.,” Bissell said. “This will be a full service branch and we are eager to get it up and running.”

Bissell said that a fall opening is planned and will be preceded by site renovations. The vacant property was previously occupied by a First Agricultural Bank branch office.

Expanded Hours and Services

Should a merger be approved, Williamstown credit union members would be contacted about their specific accounts, Yorke said. Issues such as customer ATM card acquisition and personal identification number assignment would be handled at that time, she said. Under a merger, existing loans would be transferred to the Greylock institution at current rates and terms, Yorke said. Shares [savings] accounts would earn a higher percentage rate after transfer, she said. Williamstown credit union shareholders would become shareholders of Greylock at no additional expense.

Confidentiality and security would be a priority during all transfers, Yorke said.

“We want to assure our customers that everything will be safe and secure,” she said.

Merger approval would mean expanded business hours, Yorke said, and noted that the office now operates on a limited basis.

“The members would have access to many more services,” she said. “And the hours would be compatible with other area institutions, including Saturday mornings.”

The two Williamstown credit union employees would be offered jobs at the Greylock credit union in the event of a merger, Yorke said.

The Williamstown credit union has about 470 members and assets of about $1 million. The entity employs Yorke and another person on a part-time basis.

The Greylock credit union is headquartered in Pittsfield, has about 58,656 members and assets of about $813 million. The entity employs about 157 full-time and 25 part-time employees. Automated and on-line services are offered, including on-line membership and loan applications, account balance inquiries, share draft orders, bill payments, and account set-up services. Credit counseling and notary services are also offered. The Quality Time Club, open to credit union members aged 55 and over, and a Youth Club offer a host of benefits that extend beyond financial matters.

The Greylock credit union hosts 10 branch offices located in Pittsfield, Adams, North Adams, Lee and Great Barrington. Employee-only branches are open at the General Dynamics and G.E. Plastics offices. There are 10 ATM locations that charge no ATM service fee for Greylock members, including a site in Dalton.

Greylock Growth

The scheduled branch opening coupled with a merger would add another dimension to what has been about 17 months of growth and expansion for the Greylock credit union. In February 2004, the Rising Employees Federal Credit Union merged with the Greylock group and added 108 members and $166,000 in assets to the fold. In December, Greylock purchased the Read-Shaw Insurance Agency and formed the Greylock Insurance Agency, which offers vehicle, homeowners, commercial, and other insurance plans. In June, the financial entity purchased a two-story building at 2 Park St. in Adams from Mark Gold. The move meant taking ownership of a leased branch office site. Greylock officials have said that they plan to renovate the property and market the building’s second floor.

Yorke emphasized that any merger will be decided by the credit union membership.

“We are different from a bank in that our customers own shares,” she said. “They are actually the [business] owners.”

Additional information about the Greylock Federal Credit Union is available at www.greylock.org. Information about specific credit unions, including those in the Berkshires and elsewhere in Massachusetts, is available at www.creditunionaccess.com. Information about the Williamstown M.E. Federal Credit Union is available by calling 1-413-458-4441.

Susan Bush may be reached at suebush123@adelphia.net or at 802-823-9367.
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