A grassroots campaign to block the sale of a small Pennsylvania town's only locally owned bank succeeded last week when shareholders rejected the deal.
Shareholders of privately held Peoples State Bank of Wyalusing voted Friday against a bid by Citizens and Northern Corp. of Wellsboro. Though 65% of the outstanding shares were voted for the deal, 75% was needed for approval. About 28% of the shares were voted against it, giving those opposed to the sale a victory but not quite the resounding one they were hoping for.
"We were disappointed that we didn't send a stronger message," said Jane Dietz, a shareholder and local business owner who was on the "Save Our Bank" committee.
The committee was formed shortly after $120 million-asset Peoples State announced in June that it had accepted a $22.8 million bid from $704 million-asset Citizens. It warned that the deal would mean job losses and economic hardship for Wyalusing, a small dairy town in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Mike Kilmer, a local insurance agent who was also involved in the "Save Our Bank" effort, said he was especially pleased by the outcome. "When you look at the corporate power arrayed against us, we had a good showing," he said. "These are the kind of battles that are uphill."
For now, the bank will remain independent and must determine the best way to remain competitive in a slow-growth region, said Donald E. Abrey, its president and chief executive. The board of directors will meet this week to officially terminate the agreement, he said.
But residents of the town of 700 are not flaunting their victory.
"Of course we are pleased with the outcome, but the opposition is our neighbors and friends, so you don't take delight in defeating them," Mr. Kilmer said.
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