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Social Services moves Aspen office to Basalt

Allyn Harvey

After more than 60 years of service based in Aspen, Pitkin County Social Services is moving downvalley to Basalt and combining some of its services with Eagle County.

The move comes after two years of declining case loads at the Pitkin County office, which manages state and federal aid programs – including old-age pensions, social security disability benefits and child protection services and low-income energy assistance – from an office at the county’s health and human services building. Over the same period Eagle County has seen its case load in the midvalley grow dramatically.

The two counties will continue to administer their child welfare separately, but starting Tuesday, Pitkin County’s longtime public assistance case manager, Nonie Hoffman, will be in charge of clients in both counties.

“This move is a result of our declining case loads and a desire to be more efficient,” said Kate Jangula, the 17-year director of Pitkin County Social Services.

Jangula said between 60 and 70 percent of the welfare office’s 200 clients live in downvalley communities, so the move works well for most them as well. A small office will be maintained in Aspen, however, to serve clients who live in the upper valley.

“We’re not going to make our old-age pensioners come down to Basalt; we’ll meet them up there,” she said.

The office in Aspen will continue to be located near Aspen Valley Hospital in the county’s health and human services building. The new office for child welfare and administrative services will be located at 100 Elk Run Dr., Suite 122, in Basalt; the other public-assistance programs will be run out of the Eagle County offices at 234 Cody Lane.

Jangula can be reached at 927-1611 starting Tuesday morning.

Pitkin County community relations director Nan Sundeen said Pitkin County Social Services has eliminated two full-time positions in recent years because of a fall in demand for services. Sundeen reckons the declining demand can be attributed to two causes: the 1996 law reforming the welfare system, and the rising cost of living in Aspen.

“People with incomes that fall within the federal poverty guidelines cannot afford to live in Pitkin County,” she noted in a press release about the move.

Sundeen said clients in Pitkin County were consulted before the move was made, and there were no objections.

Eagle and Pitkin counties have been discussing the change for several years, but the timing wasn’t appropriate for Eagle County until this summer. Sundeen said Eagle County has had difficulty retaining employees at its social services office, and the prospect of handing over some of the work to a Pitkin County employee who has been on the job for five years and expressed a desire to continue for several more made it an easy decision for Eagle County officials.

The combination of services is expected to have few impacts on either county’s budget, because most of the funding for the programs run by social service offices comes from the state or federal government, Sundeen said.

Public welfare began in Pitkin County in June 1936 as a result of laws created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The scope of services at that time included old-age pensions, aid to the blind and to dependent children and general relief from the economic depression that had gripped the nation for nearly seven years. The county’s department of social services emerged in the mid-1950s and has administered federal and state aid programs here ever since.


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