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Kennebec conversion debate fodder for op-eds
AUGUSTA, Maine (8/21/09)--Members of Kennebec Valley FCU will begin voting Saturday on the board's proposal to convert to a mutual savings bank and then merge with Kennebec Savings Bank (Morning Sentinel Aug. 19). The controversial merger proposal has been steady fodder for local newspapers' opinion-editorial pages for months, beginning Feb. 10 with a letter to the editor of the Kennebec Journal from Gerald C. Poulin, former board chair of the $53 million asset credit union, who opposed a merger (News Now Feb. 11). In the past two weeks letters and articles have increased, as each side presents its case. The Kennebec Journal published a letter Tuesday from member Lorraine Philbrick (Aug. 18), who noted that the credit union provides competition and helps keep prices lower and products better. If a merger is approved, "This action could very well be the beginning to an end for our credit unions in the future," she said. Andy Lacasse wrote in the Aug. 13 issue that he would vote for the merger because the credit union was "not growing" and needed a partner. "It doesn't matter to me what the label on the door is, but rather what happens when you go through it," he wrote. And on Aug. 8, the Journal published a letter from Lucille Cloutier, questioning what the advantages for members would be. "What do the members get in return for turning over all of the credit union's assets in this merger?" she asked. The Morning Sentinel reported that Kennebec Savings Bank, a community bank with a service philosophy, recently received national acclaim for its employee benefits from The Principal Financial Group, a Des Moines, Iowa-based financial services firm that named the bank one of 10 best companies for employee financial security. The bank released that news to help ease fears that jobs might be lost in the merger, the article said. That shouldn't have any impact on the merger vote, John Murphy, president of the Maine Credit Union League, told the newspaper. The league opposes the merger. "It's an issue of the membership and how they're going to benefit from such a conversion," Murphy said, adding that members have the option to join the bank if they want. If the merge is approved, the bank would acquire more than $5 million in capital assets owned by credit union membership, he said. Voting will end on Sept. 21.
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