Mellon Bank Corp. of Pittsburgh, which is acquiring the troubled Community Savings and Loan Association, plans to reopen eight branches of the thrift by mid-May, Mellon officials announced yesterday.

The 20,000 depositors at Bethesda-based Community, whose $324 million has been frozen since August, will have access to up to $100,000 -- the amount to which each account was insured -- at the opening, according to John J. Curran, interim president of Mellon Bank (Md.). Uninsured deposits will remain under the control of the Maryland Deposit Insurance Fund, said a Mellon spokesman, and it is still unclear if that money will be returned to customers.

Mellon, the 11th-largest bank-holding company in the nation, with assets of more than $33.4 billion, still has to receive approval for the March 24 sale from state and federal banking authorities and Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan. But Mellon officials said they do not expect to run into any obstacles.

"Everyone's hard work has made mid-May a very realistic target," Curran said at a news conference at Kenwood Country Club in Bethesda.

The state closed Community's doors in August and forced the crippled S&L into conservatorship after real estate partnerships set up by Community's subsidiary, Equity Programs Investment Corp. (EPIC), defaulted on $1.5 billion in mortgages and mortgage-backed securities. It was the third thrift to be taken over by the state since the crisis hit the Maryland savings and loan industry last May.

Some Community depositors said yesterday that they were relieved Mellon was taking over Community, and that they would not withdraw their funds when the new thrift opened.

"I'm very pleased to see a good organization like Mellon come in," said Art Leffler, 39, of Bethesda, a television advertising salesman who has his life savings in a Community account. "They're a very reliable bank."

"I would never take my money out of an institution that has helped me out," Leffler added. "What I will do is take my frustrations out in November on the legislators who have not been supportive of the depositors."

Marje Hoban of Gaithersburg said the sale of Community to Mellon is "the most welcome news that we've heard in 11 months."

"I plan to leave some of my money in Community in Mellon," said Hoban, a Community depositor and employe of the Food and Drug Administration who has been active in the Maryland Savings and Loan Depositors Committee. "And, depending on the services they offer, I might consider making Mellon my full-service bank in the future."

In agreements signed March 24, Maryland promised to pay Mellon $131 million in cash to take the Bethesda thrift off its hands. The Maryland government also pledged an additional $40 million to offset possible future losses from Community's far-flung real estate holdings. To complement the state's cash payment to cover Community's deposits, the Pennsylvania company agreed to assume $148 million of Community's assets.

Mellon also agreed to inject $37.5 million into its new Maryland outpost.

Under legislation signed by Gov. Harry Hughes on April 3, Mellon won the right to acquire bank-holding companies in Maryland, a power that could significantly increase the pace of banking competition in the Washington suburbs.