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MailTribune.com
  • Only bank in Gold Hill plans to close in April

    Residents hope a new financial institution will fill Chase's void
  • Gold Hill residents have learned the town will lose its only bank when Chase Bank closes its doors at 2 p.m. Friday, April 25.
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  • Gold Hill residents have learned the town will lose its only bank when Chase Bank closes its doors at 2 p.m. Friday, April 25.
    Bank officials recently announced the closure to account holders and posted signs near the Second Avenue building's entryway and an ATM.
    The location will be combined with the Chase Bank at 475 E. Pine St., in Central Point.
    "We already don't have a police department and a lot of other stuff. Now our bank is closing. I guess we aren't a big enough money-maker for them," said Mike Barlow, who visited the bank branch via electric wheelchair Friday.
    Retired and on disability, Barlow visits the bank at least once a week to deposit money from a small, home business.
    A recent amputee and without a vehicle equipped for his needs, Barlow said he would be unable to drive to Central Point or Rogue River and would either have to pay for a taxi to deal with his errands or pay check-cashing fees at nearby businesses.
    "I guess they think I'll just hop on the freeway with my wheelchair whenever I need to make a deposit or take money out. Or how about maybe I won't keep my Chase account, because why would I support a bank that doesn't support me or my community?"
    Contacted for comment by the Mail Tribune, bank employees referred questions to regional officials, who did not return calls.
    Having "survived the last three banks," including a Western Bank branch and a Washington Mutual location housed in the same building, Sue Guthrie, owner of Hello Gorgeous Salon, said she would likely join whatever bank opened next in the city, but she hoped a "more local" option would present itself.
    "Chase is big business, and we're just a small, family community. We have families with four and five generations here, and I know we would be better served by a smaller community bank or a little credit union. But whatever comes in, we can't just not have a bank," Guthrie said, gesturing toward the Chase building after being told to leave the property for talking to a reporter.
    "The employees have always been friendly, but at the end of the day it's big business, and I guess Gold Hill is not enough for JP Morgan. I just really hope something comes in, because otherwise I'll have to go to Rogue River for the bank. I really feel for the people who don't drive and need the bank to cash their disability checks. This is their only option."
    City Manager Rick Hohnbaum said the city was unhappy about closure of the bank and hoped to "engage in conversations" toward a solution for the community.
    Eric Hoddersen, chairman of the town's community action group Can-DO, planned to initiate a discussion with community stakeholders, Chase Bank officials and Sen. Ron Wyden, who serves as chair of the Senate Finance Committee.
    "What we really want to do is have a meeting with the comptroller's office and with Chase Bank and stakeholders here in Gold Hill to see what the plan is, because having a bank building on our main commercial strip and no services is really not a good option for the community," Hoddersen said.
    "We really feel that Chase has some level of responsibility other than simply sending out notices to their customers saying we could go do our banking in Central Point. We're not willing to just let it happen without making an issue of it."
    Hoddersen suggested that Chase allow another bank to use the existing facility and said the loss of any banking options would be a "real step backward" for the growing community.
    "I'm sure it wouldn't be that big of a financial burden to leave something behind in the community. We feel like we would have better luck negotiating for another bank in our community if we had an available facility," he added.
    "We want them to step up and be good corporate citizens, and as big of a company as they are, we feel pretty certain they could do that with a lot less pain than our community would feel ... without its only bank."
    Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.
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