The Aspen branch of a Grand Junction credit union is ending its physical presence in the valley, the result of a facility change by Pitkin County.
The Grand Junction Federal Credit Union will vacate its longtime home in the Schultz Health and Human Services building near Aspen Valley Hospital. It has had a tiny, rent-free office in the building since the late 1990s, said Jon Peacock, county manager, on Thursday.
An employee at the office said its last day will be Dec. 31.
The credit union did not pay rent in exchange for a company staffer acting as a receptionist for the building, which houses adult- and children-protective services, public assistance, and administrative functions for the county’s health and human services department.
Peacock said having a financial institution directing the public to county departments “hasn’t been real optimal.”
If approved by the county commissioners next month, a county administrative assistant would occupy the space.
“That position would need the space that has historically been given for free to the credit union,” Peacock said.
He said that he was surprised by the Dec. 31 closing because the county has not yet given formal notice to the business about the change and also hasn’t asked for a firm date for it to vacate.
“We’re not unhappy with the credit union,” Peacock said. “This is a needs-based decision.”
The move is not sitting well with at least one Grand Junction Federal Credit Union patron.
Charlie Martin of Aspen said he feels the valley is losing a banking institution dedicated to workers. He said he’s been a customer of the credit union for more than 23 years.
“I can only imagine how many working folks will be affected,” he said. “It is truly the best place to get money without high interest rates. During the heart of the recession they were great to me and my wife.
“I have taken dozens of loans over the years and know several people that have also.”
There have been a couple of discussions with Grand Junction Federal Credit Union officials in recent weeks to alert them that this may be coming, Peacock said. And county staff have offered to help the business find another, potentially rent-free space, but credit union officials said they will close it instead, Peacock said.
“So many people are doing online banking now, and they felt they can still provide the services,” he said, acknowledging, though, that the company’s walk-up counter will no longer be available. “They’ve looked at opportunities for other spaces and just haven’t found any.”
A message left with the credit union’s president was not returned Thursday.
Both the county and the city of Aspen offer government employees the credit union’s banking services, and Peacock said that will continue for county staff.
The Grand Junction Federal Credit Union’s Aspen branch was in the news recently after a former employee was arrested on multiple felony charges for allegedly stealing funds from account holders. Among the alleged victims are the former mayors of Aspen and Marble, Mick Ireland and John Petrocco, respectively.
Credit union officials investigating the ex-employee, Jessica Dawn Sorensen, found the office in “complete disarray” when they visited in July, according to an Aspen police report.
But Peacock said the county’s move to take over the space is “completely unrelated” to the pending case against Sorensen.
He reiterated that the current situation, in which a credit union employee is acting as a receptionist who directs residents to various public-services departments, is not a “natural fit” for either side.