A North Carolina community bank's plea for "no new taxes" has apparently fallen on deaf ears.

Late last month the city of Mount Airy extended the boundaries of its special downtown tax district to include a newly constructed branch of Community Bank.

That means the $167 million-asset bank, like hundreds of other businesses inside the tax district, must pay an additional tax to ensure that the downtown streets and sidewalks are kept clean, well lighted, and free of weeds.

Community Bank's president, James Frye, had recently said that the bank should not be in the tax zone because it sits outside the central business district. He also said the bank provides most of the tax-funded services- namely lighting and parking-on its own.

But others said Community Bank is indeed downtown and therefore should not receive special treatment.

"There are four other banks within one block of this bank," said Burke Robertson, the president of a nonprofit group that oversees the tax district.

Mr. Frye said he does not regret opposing the tax, even if his position angered fellow merchants-and possibly some customers.

"When you think you're right, you can't be afraid to fight," he said. "You shouldn't be held hostage by public relations." - Alan Kline

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines is pledging more than $1.2 million to help renovate the region's Indian reservations.

Joined by President Clinton at a ceremony on the Pine Ridge, S.D., reservation Wednesday, Home Loan Bank officials said the bank would provide a $499,000 grant for construction of 45 new homes for the Oglala Sioux tribe in Pine Ridge. It is also providing grants to help rehabilitate and refurbish homes on reservations throughout the state.

The funds were awarded to Norwest Bank of South Dakota, which applied for and won the grants through the Home Loan Bank's affordable-housing program. The bank is the lead lender on the development projects, which total more than $6.1 million. President Clinton visited the reservation as part of a four-day tour through some of the nation's most impoverished regions. The President is trying to build support for his "New Markets Initiative," which would provide federal tax breaks to businesses that invest in blighted communities. - Alan Kline

The U.S.S. Constellation returned to its home in the Baltimore Harbor on the Fourth of July weekend, thanks in part to a local community bank.

The 145-year-old ship had been away for more than two years, undergoing a $9 million face-lift. Provident Bank donated $200,000 to the restoration effort and was the presenting sponsor of the homecoming festivities.

In its prime, the Constellation chased down slave ships in the Mediterranean and provided humanitarian aid across the globe. It was brought to Baltimore in 1955 and has been a tourist attraction since 1968. It is the only surviving U.S. naval vessel from the Civil War era.

Peter M. Martin, the chairman and chief executive of Provident, said the bank was drawn to the event because it traces its history to the Port of Baltimore. The $4.9 billion-asset bank was formed in 1886 as a place for seamen based in the Fells Point section of town to set up savings accounts. - Louis Whiteman

Armchair bankers dreaming of building their own institutions may want to check out a new publication from the Independent Community Bankers of America and SNL Securities Inc.

The "Bank Founder's Guidebook" contains information from legal advisers and consultants who assist start-ups. It takes organizers from the first steps, such as choosing a charter and selecting directors, to finishing touches like what to outsource and how to market.

The guidebook includes performance data on 504 independent banks chartered between 1992 and 1998, allowing potential organizers to track trends and set expectations for growth. - Louis Whiteman

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