Postal Service Proposes Closing Offices Here
Living in a rural community offers many benefits including a closeness and familiarity with your neighbors. In the small village of Wells Tannery, residents gather at the counter of the post office to share developments and news of their family, to drop off food or personal effects in a collection box for local families in need and, of course, to mail handwritten birthday sentiments and letters.
Even in the age of e-mails, text messages and Facebook, it’s the “old-fashioned” way that’s favored by Fulton County’s northern-most residents, who are predominantly retired folks on fixed incomes.
Unfortunately, a list released by the United States Postal Services last week indicates the Wells Tannery and the Crystal Spring post offices are being targeted for possible closures. The two offices are among a total of 3,653 offices, branches and stations that are under review for possible closing.
Although, postal service officials are hopeful many of those offices could be replaced by “village post offices,” which would entail local stores, libraries and government offices offering postal services. Unfortunately, for rural northern Fulton County, aside from a few small “mom and pop” country stores, like Crystal Spring Grocery, there are no libraries or governmental offices for the financially struggling Postal Service to impose upon.
The proposed lack of local service has left many residents up in arms as to how far they will have to travel for a simple roll of stamps and to mail or pick up packages. Among those residents is Crystal Spring resident Marcie Mellott, who orders birthday gifts and Christmas gifts through the mail throughout the year.
“The proposed closure for me would be terrible, especially if I would have to run into Breezewood or to Harrisonville for my packages,” stated Mellott, who lives less than 10 minutes from the post office on Deer Glen Lane.
Meanwhile in Wells Tannery, husband and wife Tom and Melinda Deremer are not only fretting over how far they may have to travel in the future for their daily mail but also the effect the lack of a post office would pose overall for their tight-knit community.
“The post office is the only social hub or gathering place we have in the Tannery,” said Melinda Deremer. “We don’t have a store, a gas station or even a garage.”
Deremer went on to say that residents gather in and outside the post office daily while the mail is being sorted and put into boxes. She said it’s the place where you wish one another a happy birthday; share news about community events ranging from hymn sings to Bible schools; and even take orders and make deliveries for fundraisers.
“We’ll lose contact with one another without the post office,” lamented Deremer.
“The people in the Tannery are mostly retired. How far will they have to travel to buy a stamp or mail a letter?” she asked. “The mail is how we send invitations, birthday cards and thank-yous. Most of the people don’t have computers and aren’t interested in having one.”
Having previously investigated getting mail delivered to their home, Deremer stated she knows firsthand about the application and approval process required through the postmaster general’s office for a route extension. Coincidentally, the Deremer family’s mailbox is only 100 yards away from the end of the existing delivery route. Instead of filing the necessary paperwork and dealing with bureaucracy, they’ve chosen to keep their post office box to remain linked to their community and neighbors.
“What will the application process be like for all of us if there’s no post office?” she questioned.
The majority of closures proposed, according to the postal service, stem from a low volume of business. In Wells Tannery, the post office offers services to approximately 48 box holders as well as those on the HCR and rural routes. Typically busy in spurts, business at the post office picks up after 9:30 a.m. and involves a “good bit of mail.”
No final decision has been made at this time, but postal patrons will be afforded the opportunity to comment as the sites continue to be studied, said Nancy Bull, constituent services representative for Congressman Bill Shuster.
According to Bull, “Customers will be given 60 days notice of any proposed action so they can provide comments. The proposal will be posted in the location (post office) and will be accompanied by an invitation for comment.”
Customers may submit written comment to their local postmaster or officer in charge. In addition, some patrons may receive questionnaires soliciting comment, said Bull.
“After the comments are received and taken into account, any final determination to close a site must be made in writing and include findings covering all required study criteria. Customers must be notified 60 days before a closure takes place,” Bull stated.
Furthermore, she added, within the first 30 days after a determination for office closure is made available to the public, any customer regularly served by that location can appeal the decision to the Postal Regulatory Commission.