Post Office, Tannery Residents Debate Possible Closure
Giving the same song and dance routine to residents of Wood earlier this month, two representatives of the United States Postal Service travelled to the village of Wells Tannery last Thursday to share their organization’s financial woes and outline how and when their post office could be faced with an actual closure.
As part of the Postal Service’s feasibility study, the Wells Tannery Post Office and many other rural post offices, such as Crystal Spring, were placed on a list to be eyed by the Postal Regulatory Commission for possible closure. Having had several months to prepare for any sit-down meetings with postal officials, the residents of Wells Tannery have rallied in support of their post office that serves not only as a pickup and drop-off location for mail but also as a place to meet and gather with neighbors and friends.
Rev. Alfred Cross perhaps described the small post office best when he likened it to having an “Andy Griffith-type” atmosphere. Accompanied by his wife, Sue, the Crosses were among the three dozen residents on hand to meet with postal officials Dan Devey and Curtis Williams at the November 17 meeting at Wells Tannery Community Park.
Urging the post office to “think outside of the box,” Rev. Cross stated he would be happy to only get his mail twice a week if it meant being able to keep the post office overseen by Bonnie Pittman.
Williams, post office operations manager for the 166 and 168 zip codes, complimented Cross on his creative style of thinking and urged all residents to write down their “feelings” about the post office. Those suggestions, comments and surveys will in turn be sent to national headquarters in Washington, D.C., where a final decision will eventually be handed down to remove Wells Tannery Post Office from the list or issue a final closure notice.
Williams reminded residents throughout the hour-long meeting that he along with Devey, the Kittanning postmaster, are not corporate spokesmen able to make closure decisions but only meeting facilitators.
Devey noted the Postal Service is “pretty broke” for a variety of reasons ranging from low mail volume and Internet communications to fluctuations in gas prices. As a means of trying to rectify their current financial woes, Devey stated the organization has underwent reductions in staff, wage freezes, area consolidations and district and plant reductions.
Devey assured the crowd not only rural America is seeing cuts and closures, but cities across the nation have been seeing changes in their operations for years. “This isn’t willy nilly. It’s been going on,” the visiting postmaster said.
Even though post offices cannot be closed based on insufficient revenue generated, finances as well as suggestions to save and generate money were certainly hot topics during the gathering. In the case of Wells Tannery, Williams said declining mail volume and less than two hours of work generated for the postmistress daily were primary factors that landed the post office on the proposed closure list.
Devey announced an official closure proposal was posted in the post office located at the intersection of West Tannery and Cove roads prior to the meeting. The proposal must remain posted for 60 days before it eventually makes its way to Washington, D.C.
“No one knows how long it will take for a yes or no response,” said Devey. “ ... It’s not a fast moving process for closure.”
In the event the Regulatory Commission gives a nod of approval for closure, Postmistress Pittman will post a 30-day final closure notice. An appeal could be filed by the community or the post office would close after an additional 60 days has elapsed.
Williams said his role would be to ensure residents continue to receive mail services. His backup plan would be to use rural delivery, which would in turn increase the workload of local carriers. Additional carriers would not likely be hired.
Residents will still be able to maintain their Wells Tannery hometown designation, their zip code, but utilize their 911 address instead of a post office box, according to Williams, who added the “town just won’t disappear.”
Some residents, including Tom Deremer, voiced their concerns about increasingly “tough times” and questioned what will happen when people resort to stealing cash left in mailboxes intended for stamps or other services from carriers. The pickup and delivery of packages too large for a standard mailbox were also mentioned.
Devey reminded the audience that mailboxes and their contents are federally protected, and postal officials would work with law enforcement to ensure the individuals are brought to justice. He cited only one instance in his service area that matches the concerns raised by local residents.
Additional comments and suggestions shared by the residents included community volunteers helping with mail service and increasing the cost of mailing “junk mail. Some noted their disgust with the large amount of junk mail they receive daily. Husband and wife Berley and Cathy Souders recently started keeping their junk mail in a shoebox. Meanwhile, fellow resident Jason Bricker announced he uses his junk mail daily to kick-start his wood stove.
“If every household is getting that much junk mail, Wells Tannery should be able to pay for their own post office,” the Souders couple said.