Only bank in tiny Edwards is closing doors

Published 11:42 am Tuesday, May 31, 2011

EDWARDS — When BancorpSouth closes in Edwards, customers there and in nearby Utica will have to travel up to 35 minutes one way to get to the closest branch.

BancorpSouth has been the only bank in Edwards for years. Earlier this month, the company announced it was closing 23 branches, including eight in Mississippi, on Aug. 26.

Customers in Edwards and Utica will have to travel to Vicksburg or Clinton to bank.

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Edwards Mayor R.L. Perkins said the closing will affect every facet of daily life. The closing especially will hurt Edwards’ carless elderly, who must find transportation for the longer commute, Perkins said.

There’s also the inevitable effect on town government.

“The Town Hall sits right here next to the bank. We have to go there daily to get money to operate,” he said.

Once the branch closes, an Edwards police officer will escort the town clerk or deputy clerk to Clinton or Vicksburg every day — most likely twice a day — to conduct town business, Perkins said.

BancorpSouth’s announcement comes at a time when, for the first time in 15 years, more bank branches closed than opened in the U.S.

The number of bank branches fell to 98,517 in 2010, from 99,550 the previous year, a loss of more than 1,000 locations, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. More branches are expected to close in the coming years because of new technology, as well as the mortgage bust and subsequent financial crisis in 2008.

BancorpSouth said its branch closings target underperforming locations in six states. The Tupelo-based bank expects to save about $4.4 million after the branch closings. The savings will first be reflected during the fourth quarter of 2011.

Tommy Darnell, president of BancorpSouth’s Hinds County division, said the bank’s top priority is a seamless transition for both customers and employees.

Darnell said checking and savings accounts and safe deposit boxes will be transferred to the customer’s branch of choice. Safe deposit box users will receive a year’s free rent for the inconvenience.

Edwards and Utica’s seven total employees will be transferred to other branches within metro Jackson, Darnell said.