BURLINGTON — Walking into the lobby of Fox River State Bank’s Downtown Burlington branch, it’s hard to imagine that just a year ago, the building was filled with nearly 2 feet of floodwater from the nearby Fox River.
When heavy rain fell July 11-12, the Burlington area took the brunt of the impact as the Fox River crested to a record of 16.5 feet. Residents and businesses suffered an estimated $8.2 million in damages. The Fox River State Bank, 241 E. Jefferson St., was no exception, with floodwaters inflicting an estimated $350,000 in damages, according to Keith Pollek, the bank’s president and CEO.
But the bank has managed to “make lemonade out of river water,” said Jay Risch, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, as he toured the almost completely renovated bank Monday afternoon in commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the flooding.
“We wanted to come into town to memorialize just how far you’ve come,” said Risch, who attended the presentation with Greg Reiman, the DFI’s assistant deputy secretary.
Everything touched by the floodwaters has been replaced: drywall, cabinets, chairs, desks, carpet, file cabinets and a change counting machine, to name just a few items. The flooding ended up enabling the bank to renovate virtually every aspect of itself, streamlining the customer experience and pushing the institution toward a more digital operation.
“Here we are a year later. As I look around the bank, I can’t visualize anymore what we went through for three months,” said Jeffery Schmid, the bank’s senior vice president and chief support officer. Some areas of the building are still unfinished, namely storage closets and file rooms, but anywhere customers or employees go has received a facelift.
When the bank flooded, it was an all-hands-on-deck situation. Pollek, employees and other bank officials put sandbags up to slow the water’s flow and stacked as many items as they could on top of tables. Some safe deposit boxes, file cabinets and the bank’s vault were partially or totally submerged.
The bank did not lose any money, but six figures’ worth — Pollek declined to say exactly how much for security reasons — was soaked in the vault. Employees had to dry the money and send it to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago to be shredded and replaced. But because the Fox River State Bank has a location in Lake Geneva, service was uninterrupted.
Most of the damage to the bank was covered by insurance, but Pollek acknowledged that many Burlington residents are still feeling the effects of the flood to this day. As part of his work as a board member of the Burlington Community Fund, Pollek raised about $500,000 for flood victims.
“This is what community banks do,” Risch said. “They help the towns bounce back.”