County officials say they are in shock and a potential state of crisis after learning Tuesday that no banks have expressed interest in holding the county’s money.
“We have no depository,” First District County Commissioner Tim Brinker said at the county commission meeting.
Brinker joked with the audience at the county commission meeting, saying, “Who’s got a bunch of Mason jars?”
“Quite honestly folks, this is scary,” Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer said at the meeting.
Commissioners held a bid opening Tuesday seeking banks to be the county’s depository to hold millions of dollars.
County Treasurer Debbie Aholt said this could be a crisis for the county if another bank cannot be found to serve as the depository.
“We’re just shocked,” Aholt said.
Perhaps most surprising was that the Bank of Washington can no longer serve as the county’s depository after an estimated 30 to 40 years.
The county’s current agreement with the Bank of Washington expires June 1. But county officials believe the Bank of Washington will be helpful through the transition.
Brinker blames the situation on “political pressure from above and today’s federal banking world that we live in.”
Griesheimer agreed, saying the banks used to be sound financial institutions.
“With the regulations that have come down from D.C., this is another case of ‘is there anything safe anymore,’ ” Griesheimer said.
In a letter to county commissioners Bank of Washington Executive Vice President Louis B. “Buzz” Eckelkamp, III, stated, “Unfortunately, today’s economic conditions, particularly the very low interest rate environment, render the role of depository of county funds by the Bank of Washington economically unfeasible.”
In some years there has been keen competition between banks to serve as the county’s depository.
Meet With Lawyer
Commissioners plan to meet with legal counsel to figure out what should be done now.
County Counselor Mark Vincent said the county can now negotiate with other banks. Vincent added that he is confident a solution can be worked out.
It is not a matter of banks not wanting to handle the county’s money, Griesheimer said. He speculates that banks may not want to pay the county a large amount of interest for handling the funds.
“A lot of money flows through this building,” Griesheimer said of the county government center.
The county received letters from three banks in its bid opening — First Bank of Washington, Peoples Savings Bank of Hermann and Bank of Washington.
First Bank responded by saying that it could not comply with some of the requirements in the bid request.
Peoples Savings Bank stated, “We are not in the market for large deposits.”
County Auditor Tammy Vemmer said one solution may be for the county to divide its funds to make it more feasible for the smaller banks to hold the money.
“I think what some of the smaller banks have a problem with is securities — having enough securities to cover the amount of the county’s deposits,” Vemmer said.
The amount of county money held in the bank varies throughout the year, she said, adding that toward the end of the year there is a lot because of the collection of real estate and personal property taxes.