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Lodi City Council postpones banking decision

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Posted: Thursday, May 19, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:37 am, Fri May 20, 2011.

After more than an hour of discussion about the city's banking services, members of the Lodi City Council admitted they were confused and needed more time to navigate the complex financial world.

"I haven't had this much fun since water meters. ... This is not my primary focus in life; I do not throw these numbers around like these financial experts do," Mayor Bob Johnson said.

The council members considered whether to move the city's banking services from F&M Bank to Bank of the West. City staff said the city could save almost $72,810 a year while also receiving new services.

But things got confusing when F&M — a company the city has banked with for 60 years — disputed several of the cost comparisons and Bank of the West then shot back with different numbers.

The four councilmen said they needed more time to sit down with the proposals and evaluate if the city would save significant money by switching from F&M. Councilwoman JoAnne Mounce was absent.

About a year ago, the city wanted to formalize an agreement with F&M, but the two could not reach a contract, according to the staff report. So the city decided to put it out to bid to see if it could save money with another company, city spokesman Jeff Hood said.

"It is all part of the city looking for savings throughout, whether it is cell phones, vehicles or vendor contracts. We are turning over every rock," Hood said.

The city asked companies to submit bids for mandatory services, like deposits, checking, payroll, wire transfers and special accounts for liability, workers' compensation and the groundwater contamination cleanup.

F&M came in third for these services at $218,155, while Bank of the West came in at $101,524 and JPMorgan Chase bid $174,615.

The city also asked companies to bid on five other optional services.

F&M representatives said they felt the city was not using the correct measurements to compare banks, and said there was confusion over what the city was looking for in its bids.

Christa Steele, a senior vice president for F&M, said that Lodi also needs to look at the service the bank provides, not just the cost. She used the example of former City Manager Blair King asking the bank for a $3 million line of unsecured credit in 2006 to prevent the city from losing its bond rating. She said the city had it in 24 hours.

"If you switch, how long do you think it will take you to get your loan approved? I'm going to guess it's a little longer than 24 hours," she said.

She also pointed out that F&M is headquartered in Lodi, has 200 local employees and has contributed millions to the city's non-profits. She mentioned that Bank of the West's owners are located in Paris, France.

That fact did not sit well with Jerry Ferrero, a local winemaker, who attended the meeting to say his family has worked with F&M for four generations.

"I'm very pro-American, and it irks me that from the federal level to the local level we are dealing with foreign entities, and let's face it: The Bank of the West is a foreign entity," he said.

Dan Campbell of Bank of the West said his bank specializes in government accounts with 440 public agencies that have more that $1.1 billion in deposits.

Campbell said the bank tailored the bid to be significantly lower.

"We knew that in order to unseat a relationship like this, we have given you a reason to move. And I believe we have given you a reason to move," he said.

Councilman Alan Nakanishi said the city should stick with F&M because it is local.

"The employees and director contribute to the Boys and Girls Club and philanthropy. I don't just look at the bottom cost. Relationships are very, very important," he said.

Even though F&M is good corporate citizens, Johnson said that doesn't mean they get a pass when the city is looking at saving every penny to prevent employee reductions and layoffs.

"They are the backbone of the community. That being said, they've made some pretty good money off the community too," Johnson said.

Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at maggiec@lodinews.com. Read her blog at www.lodinews.com/blogs/citybuzz.

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9 comments:

  • roy bitz posted at 11:09 pm on Sun, May 22, 2011.

    roy bitz Posts: 489

    Dee----Support America by overpaying for local banking services.
    Why?
    F&M has been making a nice profit on the City's banking services for sixty years.
    The city approached F&M about a year ago to request a contract for services but F&M was not responsive. The city decided to see if a competitive bank would be responsive. One was.
    Now F&M is scrambling to keep the sixty year "relationship".
    If I were King for a day--I would move the business to Bank of The West for five years and look forward to F&M's next proposal.
    My guess is the council will award F&M the business again---it's only tax payer money.

     
  • Dee Fritz posted at 12:04 pm on Sat, May 21, 2011.

    Dee Fritz Posts: 1

    I definitely will be contacting the Council and sharing my views. They need to support the Lodi economy, Lodi businesses, Lodi families, and they need to support America by keeping our money in local F&M Bank. I already went into F&M Bank and talked to the executive (that's already one benefit of local F&M) and he explained that the numbers were not reported accurately, and also that he and his employees were putting together a comparison to help the Council compare apples to apples. So, the Council definitely needs to look at those numbers! Council - keep our jobs and money local so it can be use to support local businesses, families, and community organizations. Lodi News - pick up the phone or walk across the street and get the facts straight, please. This is important to our city.

     
  • roy bitz posted at 10:12 pm on Thu, May 19, 2011.

    roy bitz Posts: 489

    I'm glad the city "shopped" the the city's banking needs and I'm glad the council decided to study the proposals presented by the banks involved.
    It seems F&M was "not responsive" to the city's request for a contract a year ago, so the city did what most customers do when they cannot negotiate with a supplier--they shopped the market to see what options are out there.
    I have seen this movie before---been there done that.
    Three local businessmen spoke--- emotionally--- in favor of continuing the sixty year relationship between the city and F&M. They emphasized the importance of long term relationships and told of their personal experience with F&M.
    Bank of the West did not use this ploy---I'm sure they could have produced a few of their high profile customers to speak on their behalf but they didn't. They supported their proposal and seemed more confident and credible.
    It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out. It's good to see the city shop our business. Successful private sector businesses shop their vendors competitors from time to time if not all the time. It's just business!

     
  • Doug Chaney posted at 9:47 pm on Thu, May 19, 2011.

    Doug Chaney Posts: 1232

    Perhaps this is just arm twisting by the three amigos to extort F&M into dropping their numbers so low for the good old boys that it wouldn't be worth the hassle of even dealing with this dysfunctional, ever demanding city management and council team.

     
  • Jackson Scott posted at 4:41 pm on Thu, May 19, 2011.

    Jackson Scott Posts: 382

    It amazes me how the LNS and the Stockton Record can have two stories on this subject and the numbers are sooooo different.

    Can the City save $72K a year as the LNS reported, or, $20K per the Record?

     
  • Jackson Scott posted at 4:05 pm on Thu, May 19, 2011.

    Jackson Scott Posts: 382

    Hy, if you think the City of Lodi can employ two, let alone three people, for $100K, including benes, I've got a swamp land in Florida I'd like to sell you.

     
  • Hy Cohen posted at 1:36 pm on Thu, May 19, 2011.

    Hy Cohen Posts: 8

    I attended last night's Council meeting. The gross costs between the 2 banks is a difference of about $100,000. However, the senior V.P. for F&M pointed out that the actual net costs are significantly lower, pointing to the costs of last year being around $4,000.

    If the city will truly save $100,000 per year (2 - 3 full-time employee's worth of savings), then switching to Bank of the West aught to be seriously considered. I'm not saying the Council should switch, but it aught to be seriously considered. If the savings will truly be just $1,000 - $2,000, then the city should stay with a bank that is based here in Lodi.

    F&M bank employs a lot of people in Lodi, buys products here in Lodi, and supports charities here in Lodi. A couple thousand dollars in savings is, in my opinion, worth it to support local businesses. As a tax payer, that relatively small amount of money is well spent by supporting F&M bank, which is a 5 star rated bank, compared with Bank of the West: a 3 start bank, which is also not owned here.

     
  • Doug Chaney posted at 10:26 am on Thu, May 19, 2011.

    Doug Chaney Posts: 1232

    Mr. Scott, you'd expect anything but more blustering from councilman Johnson, a transplanted New Yawker? Why wouldn't the city of Lodi use a local financially stable financial institution, especially one that's already established a $3 million line of credit with? My banking services are with F&M and Mokelumne Federal Credit Union and I find them both more than efficient. However, I do realize that in this down economy that there needs to opportunities for other institutions to be able to offer their services, and if the cost savings are substantial enough, for council to hire someone other than council, another consultant, to make this decision, not the council itself that has proven they consider Lodi's finances to consist of a bottomless spending pit. Who would any Lodi citizen trust on this present council to even consider making such an important decision, with the exception of ex-Mayor Mounce, that has any real experiience doing anything but spending other peoples' money, and plenty of it, on unneessary and unneeded projects such as the Lodi Energy Center, loading the profit box up for the NCPA, and the jocular water treatment plant, which was originally scheduled to be paid by the cash defunct local developers and their fees.

     
  • Jackson Scott posted at 9:07 am on Thu, May 19, 2011.

    Jackson Scott Posts: 382

    "They are the backbone of the community. That being said, they've made some pretty good money off the community too," Johnson said.

    Mr Mayor, no one is forcing a single person to bank with F&M. It is their personal choice. There are at least five other bank brands in Lodi for any consumer to choose from.

    Having just attended the F&M Stockholders meeting on Monday afternoon I find your comment unnecessary. You might want to try to think before you speak.

     

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