Press-Republican

January 13, 2013

Future uncertain: USPS continues downsizing efforts

By ALVIN REINER
Press-Republican

---- — NEW RUSSIA — The lobby of the New Russia Post Office won’t be space enough for those wanting to express their support at a meeting that will address that facility’s fate, residents say.

“I have offered the Town Hall, where a meeting had been held before,” Elizabethtown Town Supervisor Margaret Bartley said.

The upcoming session — when the U.S. Postal Service will inform patrons of intentions to reduce hours and invite input —  is set for noon Friday, along with meetings at 1:30 p.m. in Mineville and 3 p.m. in Moriah Center.

First, a Postal Service representative will convene a session at noon at the Dickinson Center post office and 3 p.m. in Nicholville. Other meetings this month are set for noon in Rainbow Lake and 2 p.m. Bloomingdale and Rainbow Lake on Jan. 28; noon in Port Kent and 2 p.m. in Essex on Jan. 30; and noon in Altona and 3 p.m. in Bombay on Jan. 31. 

All the sessions will take place in the post offices in those communities.

FOUR OPTIONS

At least 30 days before the meeting dates, public

notices and surveys were distributed to patrons of the facilities targeted for change; they are available at the post offices, Acting Post Office Review Coordinator Tina Buell, based in Albany, said.

“At the (meetings), local management will share the results of the survey and

answer questions … The Postal Service will not make a final decision regarding this office until after the public meeting.” 

The four options, briefly listed, are: 

▶ Keep the office open with reduced daily hours (such as New Russia going from six and a quarter to two hours). 

▶ Conduct a discontinuance study and offer roadside delivery. 

▶ Find a suitable alternative location operated by a contractor, usually a local business. 

▶ Provide post-office box service via another nearby post office.

If the reduced-hour option is chosen, a determination would be made on what new hours will be set.

VOICED TREPIDATION

In New Russia, several residents measured the lobby area of the postage-stamp sized post office and found it to be 12 by 4 feet. A small desk for patrons occupies 8 square feet.

And with the fact that the inward-opening door and frame displaces 3 ½ feet, there is not much room. If chairs are provided, at least an 18-inch aisle would be needed, which would allow for the placement of perhaps four seats, Bartley said. 

She was informed that the “workroom floor” area could also be utilized, though a wall separates it from the lobby. 

“We didn’t get a big turnout at the meetings we have held so far; sometimes only two or three people,” Buell told the Press-Republican.  

But about 45 citizens attended the session in the Elizabethtown Town Hall in November 2011, voicing their trepidation about the possible closure of the post office in the small New Russia hamlet.

LOSES MONEY

Dan Cronin, then manager of U.S. Postal Service Post Office Operations for the area from Glens Falls to Watertown, informed those at the 2011 meeting that the average annual loss at the New Russia facility was $20,000. 

Most of the costs associated with the post office revolve around salary, pensions and health-care benefits, he said. He attributed a regression in income to a decline in first-class mail volume, the paying of bills online and email. 

The quaint post office in New Russia, with its boxes with brass fittings and an oak counter, is located in a section of a larger building that dates back to the Civil War.

Through the early half of the 20th century, it housed an IGA market and gas station. 

ESSEX CO. SUPPORT

In 2011, Essex County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution opposing the possible closing of post offices in New Russia, North Hudson, Moriah Center, Schroon Lake and Keene Valley. 

It said mail services are vital to the residents’ good health, welfare and businesses and that shutting down local post offices would inconvenience the elderly, infirm and those unable to drive long distances.

Email Alvin Reiner at: 

rondackrambler@yahoo.com.