Should First Basin Credit Union Convert to a Bank?

By Wyatt Goolsby
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - Even the gusty wind Tuesday morning didn't stop members of First Basin from coming out to voice their opinion about converting to a bank. But West Texans on both sides of the argument over whether the credit union should convert to a bank said they're hoping everyone will look at the facts.

"We built this place, us members, our money coming together, to help other members. So I will not go until we see this thing through," said Letty Moreno, with Save First Basin.

West Texans heard some strong words Tuesday against First Basin's proposal to become a bank. The rally, they said, was all about being well informed on some big issues.

"Typically, the people that go to a credit union are not looking for the same thing they would turn to a bank for," said Ray Boss, the president of Midland Community Federal Credit Union. "Credit unions typically finance cars for people. They typically give them small personal or signature loans. Or give them debit consolidation loans to pay off medical bills or credit cars."

And protesters said it's a whole new ball game if they become a bank.

"As a credit union, traditionally always been one member for one vote. Changing to a mutual savings bank could change that. It could end up being where the votes are put out based upon your deposit size," explained Boss.

"If they convert, eventually we believe they are going to convert to a stock bank where the members will lose complete ownership of the credit union," said Moreno.

But managers at the bank said that argument isn't right at all.

"Well, we're not issuing stock. First of all, so you can't issue stock, if we don't plan to issue stock. No where in this proposal have we indicated that we're going to issue stock," said Shem Culpepper, the CEO of First Basin Credit Union.

Protesters also argued against the increased rates and fees.

"It really doesn't make a lot of sense to say that we are going to charge worse rates and fees, that's akin to saying we're going to run off all of our business. But the fact of the matter is that we have always remained highly competitive in all of our rates and fees," explained Culpepper.

Managers with the First Basin also said they're not trying to isolate or send away any of their current members. Right now, there are roughly 22,000 members of the First Basin Credit Union. And the last day of voting, the key date, is February 21st. That's when the final numbers will be tallied.