Massachusetts bankers are trying again to rein in Greylock Credit Union. At a hearing before Acting Banking Commissioner Thomas Curry, four bankers protested the credit union's application to open a branch in the town of Adams. The Aug. 16 heating was held in North Adams.
Last year Bay State bankers and some credit unions failed to prevent the institution, then named Pittsfield G.E. Employees Credit Union, from getting a charter to serve all of Berkshire County.
"I'm not entirely surprised that when this credit union attempts to make a move in community out-reach, bankers try to block us," said James Lynch, president of the $274 million-asset institution.
Mr. Lynch said the credit union wants the branch to increase convenience for its 3,300 customers living in the northern part of the county, about an eighth of its total customer base.
The branch's market area would include the towns of Adams, North Adams, and Williamstown, with a combined population of 30,000.
Currently the nearest branch for people in these towns is in Pittsfield, 16 miles away.
"We're trying to reach out," he said. "The Community Reinvestment Act requires us to seek out the credit needs in the marketplace we serve, and the marketplace we serve is Berkshire County."
While credit unions aren't covered by the federal CRA, state-chartered credit unions in Massachusetts are subject to a state CRA-type law. Bankers charge that by opening a branch, Greylock would drain deposits from banks. That would hurt their ability to make business loans in the depressed area, said Kevin Kiley, executive director of the Massachusetts Bankers Association.
State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley backed the bankers in a letter he sent to Mr. Curry on June 28. Rep. Bosley is from the 1st Berkshire District and is chairman of the Commerce and Labor Committee.
"There is a delicate balance of financial institutions currently in Northern Berkshire County," Rep. Bosley wrote. "The location of the Greylock Credit Union, I believe, would be disruptive and dangerous to our long-term prosperity." Bankers also said the area already is overbanked, with 19 bank and credit union branches operating in the three-town area.
In his testimony, Robert A. Wells, president of the Berkshire County Savings Bank, noted that in 1979 his bank's application to open a branch in Great Barrington was denied because it "would have unreasonably affected competition among banking institutions."
Greylock's application should be denied on those grounds, said Mr. Wells, on behalf of the state bankers association.
A period in which to comment on the application expires Aug. 30.