New bank is a branch

Investors say they will retain local control

A group of Moffat County residents will serve in an advisory capacity for a proposed new bank, but all final decisions will be made by a Steamboat Springs-based board of directors.

Investors in the proposed Moffat County National Bank will not own the facility as they originally indicated.

They have bought stock in First National Bank of Steamboat Springs, which has applied to the Office of Comptroller and Currency to open a branch in Craig.

Known investors are Napa Auto Parts owner John Ponikvar, Mayor Dave DeRose, attorney Kevin Peck, attorney Tom Thornberry, Cook Chevrolet owner Scott Cook, Moffat County Commissioner Darryl Steele and Dean Brosious.

"We think there's a need for a bank where the decisions are made locally by people in touch with the community they serve," Brosious said in November when the announcement of the proposal was first made.

But just how many of those decisions will be made locally has been questioned by at least one banking official.

"They're trying to paint a picture that there's going to be more local control than other banks," said Pete Waller, First National Bank of the Rockies chairman and CEO. "They're going to be another branch bank operating in that market just like all the rest of us. I don't think it's fair for them to give the impression they're something they're not."

Eleven of an estimated 15 local investors will sit on an advisory committee that will make recommendations to the 17-member First National Bank of Steamboat Springs Board of Directors.

"It's kind of gives us the best of both worlds," Moffat County National Bank president Dave Fleming said.

The scenario, he said, allows local people to make decisions but gives one bank the lending power of two.

He said the operating contract between the two boards states that what the local advisory board recommends to the board of directors has to be approved.

"The whole premise of this is the investors within this community know best, because we know our market best," Fleming said.

Loan applications over a certain amount will be reviewed by the advisory committee and passed on to the board of directors for approval.

Moffat County National Bank is operating a loan processing center on Victory Way, but it is purchasing property at 435 Mack Lane and has plans to have a temporary bank building erected in May.

Construction on a permanent building is expected to begin in the spring of 2006.

Fleming said the temporary facility will have paved parking and a drive-up window.

"We just want to do it right," he said. "We don't want it to look like a temporary facility."

Fleming left his position as president of First National Bank of the Rockies to run the new bank.

Fleming has 20 years of financial experience, with nearly 10 of them at First National Bank of the Rockies.

"I honestly didn't think I'd have an opportunity for something like this," he said. "This is kind of a refreshing approach. Technology has leveled the playing field. You can do most of the things big banks do and still provide local knowledge and service."

Mark Harmon, president of Bank of Colorado, would not comment on the new bank.

Bank of the West President Tonya Griffith was unavailable for comment.

Waller, though, stressed his bank's commitment to its customers and the community.

In 2004, FNBR contributed more than $170,000 in charitable contributions to the four counties it has branches in -- Moffat, Routt, Rio Blanco and Mesa. And members of the board of directors live in those communities.

In Craig, that member is Ron Danner.

"We are very closely attuned to the wishes, wants and demands of the public," Waller said. "If anyone cares more about the community, it's us because we're already there."

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