The Sweetwater County Commissioners held their regularly scheduled meeting at 8:30 this morning at the courthouse in Green River.
A major item of discussion was a recent statement made by corporate office of Bank of the West on their website concerning a decision to no longer support certain types of coal, oil and gas exploration, very much part of Sweetwater County and the state of Wyoming economy.
Chairman Reid West started the discussion by reading a story, in its entirety, concerning this matter that was published yesterday on Wyo4news.com After the reading, West commented how this is very concerning and needs to be discussed as a board. He followed up by saying, from his understanding, Bank of the West does a very good job. West continued to say that as a board they will move forward working with the county attorney and treasurer to help make the correct decision concerning Sweetwater County’s banking.
West also commented that a statement made like this sounds as if Bank of the West does not want to do business with Sweetwater County. The Chairman also stated that Wyoming has a strong energy producing heritage and is proud of the energy has been produced. He let those in the audience know these industries employ many families and supports them. He continued to say they do not want to overreact, but also do not want to underreact to a situation like this.
Sweetwater County works closely with Bank of the West as it holds 15.8 million dollars in a general account, 1.4 million dollars in insurance and 11 million dollars in a subsidiary account with BNP Paribas (owners of Bank of the West).
Here are other comments from other commissioners:
Wally Johnson was second to comment and recommended that the commission start withdrawing funds as they bank extensively with Bank of the West. Johnson stated that they want to be cautious, but he individually will not do business with Bank of the West and will withdraw his personal funds from the banks.
John Kolb stated very strongly that Bank of the West has declared war on the people of Wyoming, particularly in Sweetwater County. Kolb agreed with Commissioner Johnson that they should terminate all financing and investing with the bank. Kolb said, “How can they profit off us and go against us at the same time”.
Randy Wendling and Don Van Matre supported the stance made by Johnson and Kolb. Wendling also supported the action of moving slowly with the process and waiting for a recommendation of County Treasurer Robb Slaughter and the county attorney. Van Matre added, “The people that work for Bank of the West are very nice people”.
Each commissioner shared how this greatly effects the people of Wyoming based on the revenue the coal, oil and gas industry bring in each year.
County Treasurer Robb Slaughter reiterated the words of the commissioners that they do not want to overreact but need to acquire more information concerning this matter.
Slaughter stated, that as of right now, the county does not have any other banks capable of collateralizing the counties money at the level that Bank of the West currently can. No other banks can fund their deposits at the level they need to be collateralized.
Slaughter said he will continue to communicate with Bank of the West about this issue. He reiterated the importance of not overreacting because it will take time for this process to be sorted out. He did say “the situation feels like a punch in the stomach”.
The topic will be on the agenda for their next Commissioners meeting on August 21st.