Public turns out for Gillett post office meeting
GILLETT - The meeting on the future of the Gillett Post Office was scheduled to be held in the post office, but it was moved to the Gillett Senior Center as a result of the strong turnout Wednesday.
About 30 people showed up for the community meeting at 3 p.m.
The postal service, which has seen a 27 percent overall drop from 2005 to 2011 in customer retail visits, is seeking to cut costs, and a plan, called the "POST" plan, is part of its strategy to address costs. The meeting concerned the POST plan.
The results of a survey of residents regarding options for the Gillett Post Office were disclosed at the meeting.
According to Russell Kerlin, manager of postal operations, a total of 1,600 surveys were sent out, and 419 were returned.
The four options in the survey were: keep the Post Office open with realigned (reduced) hours; close the Post Office and offer curbside delivery; close the Post Office and establish a Village Post Office; close the Post Office and provide PO Box service at another nearby Post Office.
Of the 419 responses that were received, 376, or 90 percent, were in favor or realigned hours; 19, or five percent, chose the delivery option; 9, or 2 percent, chose the Village Post Office option; 6, or 1 percent, wanted the nearby post office option; and 9, or 2 percent, made no selection.
Kerlin announced that the retail hours for the Gillett Post Office would likely be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, with lunch from noon to 1 p.m., and Saturday hours from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
This doesn't reflect a change, however.
But Kerlin noted that the Gillett Post Office would have a part-time postmaster rather than a full-time post master, under the likely scenario. Kerlin said the part-time postmaster in Gillett wouldn't have benefits, resulting in a cost savings.
Administrative duties would be handled by a full-time postmaster in Troy who would be responsible for the Gillett Post Office and the post offices in Granville Summit, Sylvania, Columbia Cross Roads, and Troy as well.
Kerlin also mentioned a "time lock" system as a possibility for the Gillett Post Office, which would allow residents to get into the post office to check their post office boxes outside the operating hours. It would allow them access to the building in a certain timeframe.
Residents were concerned about the post office hours, especially the closing time of 4 p.m. and the times not being convenient with their schedules, especially those working in Elmira, N.Y.
After some discussion and polling of the audience, Kerlin said he would make a suggestion to the postal service that the operating hours, Monday through Friday, be changed to 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with lunch from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. to accommodate residents.
One woman suggested having staggered times, but Kerlin thought this would be confusing.
Kerlin expected the decision to be posted at the post office in a week, but he said nothing can be implemented until 30 days after the posting.
People, however, seemed more concerned with another plan the postal service is considering that is called Delivery Unit Optimization (DUO). Kerlin, however, said it is "not a done deal." He also said the community meeting was only to discuss the POST plan, not DUO. Several people had questions about DUO, and left the meeting upon realizing that the meeting was only about the POST plan.
According to the postal service, DUO "involves relocating letter carriers out of local Post Offices, stations and branches and consolidating them into centralized delivery offices that will continue to be served by the same processing and distribution center."
At the meeting, people were concerned about the possibility of postal carriers in Gillett being relocated to Troy under DUO. But Kerlin said customers shouldn't see very much difference, if that should happen.
He acknowledged that he saw "a lot of people shaking their heads" as he spoke.
"It's a big county," resident Linda Leonard said. "It's a long ways to Troy from here, it isn't two miles."
A Gillett postal carrier, Bonnie Borek, was one of those expressing frustrations about DUO.
Borek said she was concerned about "extra mileage" if DUO goes through.
"It's going to add roughly 32 miles to each of the routes a day," she said, when asked for comment. She also is concerned about it adding extra time.
She said the starting time to sort mail in Troy is earlier, at 7:45 a.m., than it is in Gillett, where it starts at 8 a.m. However, Borek believes DUO wouldn't be a benefit because the carriers would have to make a 16-mile drive to Gillett, from Troy, before they could start delivering. She disputes the assertion that DUO won't make much of a difference with customers.
She said the carriers were given three dates for DUO to start last year in Troy, but each date was canceled.
Borek, however, said she thinks that DUO will eventually go through.
"I just hope it's later than sooner. I'm hopeful that they will keep us in Gillett, but I think the writing is on the wall that we will probably end up in Troy."
She said that she thinks a community meeting should be held on DUO, but she noted that none is scheduled or planned.
Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.