Downtown banks n traffic issues

A queue of cars waits at the drive-thru at Wells Fargo in Payette on May 5. Mayor Jeff Williams has observed queues like this popping up around Payette, as he mentioned during the May 4 City Council meeting.

PAYETTE - Going to the bank to conduct business has taken on a whole different shape during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic: Waiting in your car. While banks have their lobbies closed to the public, queues at banks with drive-thru windows have backed up onto Main Street and several other side streets in the downtown area.

In her comments to the Payette City Council during its May 4 Zoom meeting, Councilor Lori Steiniker expressed concern about the traffic issues these queues have caused.

“The cars are having to line up on the opposite side of the street to go into the driveway,” she said. 

Mayor Jeff Williams noted that this issue has been patrolled by Payette Police.

“Our PD has been out there talking to people,” said Williams.

City Clerk Mary Cordova said traffic, specifically outside the Wells Fargo Bank next door to city hall, has been a problem for city staff for several weeks.

“Ontario does not have a drive-up and the Weiser branch is closed, so we have several from Ontario and Weiser in our town,” said Cordova. “We’re hoping they’re stopping by Maverik and going to Albertsons on their way to the bank. But we have been working with them, not only the police department but my staff has been working with them as well.”

A common issue

Julie Fogerson, a media representative for Wells Fargo’s Pacific North division, wrote in an email on May 11 that Payette and other branches are taking measures to ensure customer safety as the virus changes how they do banking.

“Throughout the country, including in Idaho, we have been and will continue to be open as an essential business,” said Fogerson. “We understand the situation has led to longer wait times and appreciate our customers’ patience.”

The problem of drive-up traffic blocking other vehicle traffic is not unique to Wells Fargo, as another area bank has seen this become an issue for them, too.

Ashley Hook, business development officer for Malheur Federal Credit Union, wrote in an email on May 7 that traffic backup has been observed at the Payette branch. Nonetheless, she said that their experience working with customers this way during the pandemic has otherwise worked well.

“Our members and shared branching members have all been so understanding about the pre-cautions that we have put in place,” said Hook.

The credit union has drive-up services at four of its five branches, according to Hook.

An enforcement perspective

Payette Police Chief John Plaza said staff at City Hall has stepped up to help guide traffic, without having to have someone there all the time.

“Our city hall has provided cones to cordon off a lane for bank travel into the drive-thru teller area. The bank put out some signs directing them where to go,” wrote Plaza in an email on May 8. “I believe it is working well and [we] will continue to modify any traffic patterns if problems arise. We just ask that they do not block the alleyway west of the bank and use common sense when pulling into the new lane.”

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