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Farmers & Merchants Bank 'interested' in Freeport

Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
The former PNC Bank on Fifth Street in Freeport, shown here in November 2012, may become a Farmers and Merchants Bank.

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By R.A. Monti
Friday, March 15, 2013, 1:01 a.m.
 

Plans are in the works for Freeport to get a bank again.

The borough has been without a bank since PNC Bank moved out on Feb. 22, but that is likely to change.

According to Richard Krauland, the president and CEO of Farmers and Merchants Bank of Western Pa., his company is in the early stages of acquiring the former PNC building, on the corner of Fifth and High streets, in order to open their own branch there.

“We haven't purchased anything yet,” Krauland said. “But we're interested in it.”

Amy Vargo, a spokeswoman for PNC, said the bank wouldn't confirm the possible sale of its old branch.

“It sounds like rumor and speculation at this point, and we're not going to comment,” Vargo said.

Farmers and Merchants' Krauland said he couldn't discuss many details, but it appears that the deal may be close.

Farmers and Merchants placed a legal ad in the Wednesday edition of the Valley News Dispatch notifying the public that the corporation has filed an application with the Comptroller of Currency asking for permission to open a bank in Freeport. Any new bank must file for permission to open.

Farmers and Merchants, based in Kittanning, has eight locations throughout Armstrong County.

Council President Don Rehner says the bank will likely open in mid-May, once the ink dries on the sale.

“I'm thrilled that they appear to be coming to town,” Rehner said. “They've been a pleasure to deal with. I'm hoping all borough residents patronize the new bank.”

Rehner said PNC has been cooperative in the borough's search for a bank.

“We started reaching out to Farmers and Merchants about two weeks after PNC announced they were leaving,” Rehner said. “I do think PNC was helpful.”

Rehner said he and Freeport Renaissance Association President Mary Bowlin knew Farmers and Merchants has a history of being a small-town-friendly bank.

“We heard from other small communities about how well Farmers and Merchants works with them,” Bowlin said. “They'll be a great fit for Freeport. They're community-minded.”

Both Rehner and Bowlin spoke of how vital it is for Freeport to have a bank, especially for businesses and the elderly.

“To me it's extremely important; it maintains your small-town identity,” Rehner said. “It's there for the residents that can't travel.”

Bowlin said she couldn't be any happier now that it looks like the return of a bank is imminent.

“If it were warmer out, we'd be dancing in the streets,” she said.

R.A. Monti is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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