April 6, 2017
New offer, donation promise prompts switch
By Ed Byrne
The Brillion News
HILBERT – At its special meeting on March 29, the Hilbert Village Board rescinded its decision, made at the March 14 board meeting, to move its banking business to the Collins State Bank.
The village had been looking to change banks since the Huntington National Bank bought up the FirstMerit Bank and decided to close the Hilbert branch – the only bank in the village.
After the board’s decision to bank with Collins State Bank, the State Bank of Chilton wrote to the village on March 26 in a letter seeking its business.
According to a tabulation prepared by the village clerk’s office, Hilbert would earn an additional $2,580 per year on its deposits if they were placed with the State Bank of Chilton rather than with the Collins State Bank.
After that information was made public, Trustee Jim Koffarnus moved to rescind the selection of Collins State Bank as the village’s bank. That passed 6-0.
Then Koffarnus moved to go with the State Bank of Chilton, and that motion was approved 6-0. Trustee Tom Piepenberg was not at the March 29 meeting.
In her March 26 letter to the village, State Bank of Chilton Executive Vice President Laura Hoerth wrote: “If the Village approves opening all deposit accounts with our Bank, after six months we will donate $10,000 to the Village toward park facility upgrades, children’s activities, or similar project.”
Trustee Dan Starfeld described the State Bank of Chilton’s offer of $10,000 as a bribe, but he later voted for the motion to move the deposits there.
On Thursday, in an e-mail to Village President Mark Breckheimer, Todd Thiel requested that Breckheimer censure Starfeld. Thiel’s father-in-law, Paul Gehl, was identified as a member of the State Bank of Chilton’s Board of Directors. Thiel, in the e-mail to Breckheimer, said “it is my belief that [Starfeld] should be reprimanded or asked to step down.”
Hilbert Village Administrator Dennis Duprey said he would do business with any bank chosen by the village board, but had also been hoping to find a bank or credit union willing to open a branch in Hilbert – something Collins State Bank said it would consider doing.
After the board chose Collins State Bank on March 14, Duprey said he had begun setting up the village’s relationship with the bank, including getting new checks.
He said changing banks “is not an easy process [but] a long process to go through.”
Duprey said the State Bank of Chilton offered to cover the costs of switching accounts to its bank, and offered to donate the $10,000 to the village for its park facilities – if the village moved all of its accounts to the State Bank of Chilton.
Back in December, the village board passed a resolution identifying 13 different banks and credit unions where it would authorize Duprey to deposit village funds.
That would no longer be an option if the village accepted the State Bank of Chilton’s proposal, which calls for all village funds to be in its bank.
“I would not have the flexibility to go anywhere [else] for the time being,” Duprey said.
Duprey urged caution and warned the board that some residents might not be happy with the village having all of its funds in one bank.
Duprey said he felt that the Collins State Bank would not consider opening a branch in Hilbert if the village put all of its funds in the State Bank of Chilton.
“That’s just my personal opinion,” Duprey said.
He said Collins State Bank and Premier Financial Credit Union were the only two financial institutions who expressed any interest in opening a branch in Hilbert.
“If you feel it is best for the village, in the long run, to have a financial institution located in our village, then in my opinion, you should vote to leave everything with Collins State Bank, although there is no guarantee that Collins State Bank will locate here,” Duprey said.
Duprey then suggested that the whole matter be tabled for reconsideration.
“My opinion is you should table things tonight and step back and request proposals from everyone – that includes Verve, BMO Harris, Wisconsin Bank & Trust – and open it up for everybody,” Duprey said.
Hoerth said we would be comfortable with that approach.
“I think that it is important that we put everyone on the same playing field, and this is why I feel doing an RFP [request for proposals] is the best way to go,” Duprey said. “If the best proposal is the State Bank of Chilton, we go with them. If it is Collins State Bank, we go with them. If it is Verve then we go with them. If it is anyone else, we go with them.”
There was no motion from any board member to reset the process and start over with an RFP for banking services.
In subsequent discussions, Starfeld described the $10,000 donation as a bribe, but Trustee Tim Keuler said money should be the deciding factor in picking a bank for the village accounts.
“We dig and scratch every year for money, and now we have this staring us in the face,” Keuler said. “Grab the money and go.”
Hoerth said the State Bank of Chilton had not ruled out a branch in Hilbert, but simply couldn’t consider it at this time because of the acquisition of Calumet County Bank.
Breckheimer said the State Bank of Chilton needs to understand, though, that even with all of the village’s accounts in their bank, any financial institution that opens a branch in Hilbert will get the village’s business.
“If someone has a bank here in town, we have to go with them obviously,” Breckheimer said.
The decision by the village board also means that the village is borrowing money from the State Bank of Chilton to purchase the 50 acres of farmland just south of the high school campus and west of State 57/32 for residential growth.
This story was featured in the April 6, 2017 edition of The Brillion News.