2011-10-06 / Front Page

Tannery Fights For Post Office

Sending letters, circulating petitions
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz
STAFF WRITER


Byron Helsel, standing, Wells Tannery Community Park Association president, distributes sample letters and questions as well as other valuable information to residents last Thursday related to how to stop a possible post office closure. Byron Helsel, standing, Wells Tannery Community Park Association president, distributes sample letters and questions as well as other valuable information to residents last Thursday related to how to stop a possible post office closure. Determined to take whatever action is necessary, a group of Wells Tannery residents agreed last week they are prepared to fight to keep the doors of their post office open. Gathering at Wells Tannery Community Park last Thursday evening, around two dozen concerned community members sat down to review information that may be critical in keeping their post office not only open but servicing the small, northern Fulton County village.

Headed by Park Association President Byron Helsel, the group learned their post office falls under the “first step” of what appears to be a lengthy process designed by the United States Postal Service. In being considered for possible closure by the Postal Service, Helsel pointed out it “would certainly be a done deal if no one steps up.”

“To me the post office is very important and the town wouldn’t be the same without it,” Helsel said.

Robin Bowser, a retired postmistress from Smoke Run, Pa., stated the Postal Service’s criteria for “initiating a closure” is based on low customer demand, inability to generate sufficient funds and even a vacancy in the position of postmaster.

Follow-up steps by the Postal Service could include a public notice of a proposal, which is posted within the post office itself, placed in patrons’ mailboxes or both. A study period reportedly spans a 60-day time frame and would include a public comment period and hearing with post office officials.

Residents should receive a questionnaire during that step, said Helsel, who added the more complete the paperwork is the better off they should be. Questions posed by residents should also be placed in writing. Samples of suggested questions were distributed to residents on hand.

It was noted the public comment period is typically the time when residents rally and begin gathering petition signatures, holding rallies and contacting elected officials.

Also hoping to head off the need for a future public hearing and quash the Postal Services’ idea of a possible closure, Helsel, along with fellow Wells Valley residents Sue Cross and Carolyn Mosebey, agreed to serve on a petition committee. The committee discussed going door-to-door to secure necessary signatures from Wells Tannery postal patrons having a 16691 zip code or even stand outside the post office to speak with patrons as they enter and leave the post office.

The group also collectively agreed they should take matters to the next level and begin sending letters to United States Congressmen Robert Casey, Patrick J. Toomey and Bill Shuster. Each resident in attendance was given copies of form letters to sign and mail to their congressmen.

At the conclusion of the 60-day public notice period, it was noted an internal review will be performed by the Postal Service. The review could take days, weeks or months, and decisions are based on: the effect of the closing on the community; the effect on Postal Service employees; is the closing consistent with their policy of providing regular postal service to rural areas where post offices are not self-sustaining; economic savings to be had due to the closing; and other factors deemed necessary.

In the event the Postal Service’s final determination is to close the Wells Tannery Post Office, residents can appeal the matter within 30 days to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). The PRC has 120 days to consider and rule on the appeal. However, according to reports, the Postal Service is not required to wait on a ruling by the PRC and can close a post office 60 days after the final determination has been made and posted.

“Sometimes you don’t know what you have until it’s gone,” Helsel told the crowd.

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