DEPUE — The decision to close DePue’s Heartland Bank and Trust branch has brought confusion, disappointment and a feeling of shock to community members.
Although a press release was sent to the Bureau County Republican late Monday afternoon, Village President Eric Bryant said on Tuesday he never received a call, email or visit from any representative of the bank explaining the reasons behind the closure.
“We’re not very pleased with this and not very happy with how it was handled,” he said. “It would have been nice to know something like this was coming to the community.”
Village Clerk Jane Vickers had similar feelings about the situation. She agreed someone from the bank should have at least called the mayor, so when concerned residents began calling about the news, he could provide answers to them.
The branch is scheduled to close for good at 3 p.m. Sept. 30. The four current DePue employees will remain employed at other Heartland branches. If choosing to stay with Heartland, customers will need to bank at other branches, which could include Spring Valley, Peru, Oglesby, Henry and Princeton.
Bryant said although he believes most customers will continue banking in Spring Valley, the DePue branch closing is going to be an inconvenience for several residents, especially elderly citizens.
“Believe it or not, DePue is the third largest town in Bureau County and we’ve had a bank here in town forever,” he said.
The press release stated a decline in customers visiting the branch due to the convenience of electronic banking services is the reason behind the closure.
Bryant disagreed and said there is no real understanding behind the reason.
“I guarantee you there are a very few, if any, elderly residents who are doing electronic banking, so it’s going to be a huge burden on them,” he said.
Vickers, who is also a lifelong resident of DePue, can’t think of a time when DePue didn’t have an operating bank in town.
“There has always been a bank there, and it’s going to be sad to see another empty building in the downtown, especially one that has always housed a bank,” she said.
Vickers was shocked to hear the reason behind the branch closing. As part of her clerk duties, she does business at the bank most Fridays and admitted she actually likes to go early to avoid the lines.
“There’s always people in there when you go to the bank,” she said, adding that a lot of elderly people seem to visit the bank for their needs and can always be seen chatting with others in town at the bank.
Although she reasoned a bit with the decision, saying it probably was the best economical decision, she wishes Heartland would have tried cutting back bank hours first, before taking away the whole business.
Heartland Vice President/Retail Director Paula Mitchell of Bloomington told the BCR on Monday, “In doing research and looking at the traffic patterns of that facility, it just didn’t warrant the branch in DePue. We just can’t sustain the branch in that location.”
One bank customer, who asked not to be identified, said he was more than surprised with Heartland’s decision.
“I’m appalled,” he said shaking his head. “They say they’re closing us down because of all the people using electronic banking. That can’t be true. I’d love to see the numbers on that because I would venture a guess that most people in DePue — at least many of them — don’t even own a computer ... I thought Heartland coming into DePue was going to be a good thing. I was wrong.”
Bryant said he would be in contact with the bank and would ask if they might reconsider moving. He questioned whether another bank might consider moving into DePue.
“These are just things we will look into and pursue and see if there’s any interest,” he said.
BCR Editor Terri Simon contributed to this story.
Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.