Westamerica Bancorp. is delaying its plan to shutter a small branch in Upper Lake, Calif., to give community leaders more time to convince another bank or credit union to set up shop there.

The $5 billion-asset Westamerica had planned to close the branch April 24 but now will keep it open for another six months, the Lake County News reported on its website Wednesday.

Local and state lawmakers have been fighting to keep the branch open since Westamerica first announced plans to close it in January. Residents and business owners had complained that the closure of the town's only bank branch would have an adverse effect on the community and force many of its residents to travel outside the town to do their banking. The closest bank branches are about five miles away and the closest Westamerica branch is about 11 miles away.

Late Tuesday, Lake County's representatives in the California Legislature issued a joint statement saying that they are working with community leaders and other banks and credit unions "to find a long-term banking solution" for the area. A branch has operated on the town's Main Street since 1921.

"Upper Lake continues to grow and recover from the recession, and a community bank is vital to the long-term success of the local economy," State Assemblyman Bill Dodd said in the statement. "It's critical that the needs of Lake County are met and we'll continue to work hard to see this through."

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