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Originally published April 4, 2014 at 4:46 PM | Page modified April 4, 2014 at 5:15 PM

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Editorial: Praise to Coastal Community bank for forgiving loans after Oso mudslide

Digging out of the muck in the Snohomish County landslide is an all-in effort.

Seattle Times Editorial

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THE value of a locally owned community bank is more than its ledger sheets. It is in decisions such as this: When the home of an Everett-based Coastal Community Bank employee was wiped out in the Snohomish County mudslide, the bank wiped clean its own note on her home.

Other loans to landslide victims, including auto and business loans, will also be forgiven by the bank, which has branches in Darrington and Arlington. Eric Sprink, chief executive of Coastal Community, said his bank held at least two mortgages as well as other loans, of a value not yet determined.

Coastal Community Bank is talking with the national behemoths in the mortgage world, including Citibank, urging them to make similar decisions.

“It’s causing the conversation to be had on local and national level, which is wonderful,” Sprink said. “This is such a unique disaster. [The property] is just gone.”

Recovery in Darrington, Oso and Arlington must be an all-in priority. The county and state already are all-in, and on Wednesday President Obama opened the federal wallet for major disaster relief aid.

Banks should follow Coastal Community’s lead. None of the homeowners in the now-gone Steelhead Haven neighborhood had insurance coverage for mudslides. Federal disaster aid compensates homeowners, who lost all, up to $32,400.

As the muck slowly clears, and the communities bury their dead, Snohomish County will also need to step up, in a different way. As The Seattle Times detailed Thursday, the county considered buying out the neighborhood in 2004 because a well-documented risk of mudslide could “threaten life and property.” This is new information to surviving homeowners interviewed by The Times.

“We all make risk assessments every day of our lives,” said one homeowner, Davis Hargrave, an architect. “But you cannot make a risk assessment on information you do not have.”

Snohomish County owes Hargrave and his neighbors, living or dead, a full explanation.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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