Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 11, 2012

Public meetings to resume as USPS proposes cutting hours

By CHARLES OWENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — The new year could bring more changes to small post offices across southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.

Public meetings are continuing on a proposal unveiled earlier this year by Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe that would significantly reduce the operating hours of 27 rural postal facilities located in Mercer, McDowell, Tazewell, Bland, Buchanan and Giles counties.

The public meetings will continue on Jan. 8 at 4 p.m. with a hearing on the Bandy Post Office at the Bandy Community Center. A second public meeting for the Falls Mills, Va., community will be held on Jan. 14 at 5 p.m. at the Falls Mills United Methodist Church.

Hearings also were recently completed in the Elbert, Anawalt and Bartley communities.

All residents in affected communities have received or will receive a letter in the mail and a survey from the postal service, Cathy Yarosky, a communications program specialist for the United States Postal Service, said.

“The public meeting notice (location, date and time) will also be posted in each post office,” Yarosky said. “These meetings are being held nationwide and will continue until 2014.”

In addition to reduced window hours, the postal service plan also includes options for the closure of post offices and the addition of retail and delivery service through a rural carrier; the relocation of a post office to an alternate site operated by a contractor, usually a local business; or the consolidation of a post office with a nearby postal facility.

The consolidation of Bluefield’s Mail Processing and Distribution Center also will begin on Feb. 1. The Bluefield Mail Processing facility is being consolidated with an existing mail processing plant in Charleston.

A letter mailed to area businesses last week by the postal service urged the businesses that mail in bulk to either have their first-class mail received by 3 p.m. or to consider driving to Charleston for timely first-class delivery after the Bluefield Mail Processing facility is closed in February.

Local officials are blasting that suggestion — pointing to the fact that driving to Charleston is a four-hour round trip that also requires paying more than $12 in tolls along the West Virginia Turnpike.

“This is our tax dollars at work,” Bluefield Mayor Linda Whalen said last week. “Everyone in the city of Bluefield needs to contact their legislators about this recommendation for us. That is a ludicrous suggestion that we deposit first-class mail in Charleston. The alternative for us is to quit using the U.S. Postal Service and use other mail carrying services. That is not a viable alternative for people in southern West Virginia. It is ridiculous. Someone obviously that is in control of the mail in West Virginia does not know the location of Bluefield or they wouldn’t make a suggestion like that.”

As part of the new postal proposal announced earlier this year, many post offices in the region could see reduced window hours of operation.

According to the original proposal, the Bramwell Post Office would see its hours of operation reduced from eight to four hours a day. The Kellysville Post Office would have its hours reduced from six to two hours a day. The Lashmeet Post Office would be reduced from eight to six hours. The Matoaka Post Office would have its hours reduced from eight to four hours a day. The Montcalm Post Office would have its hours reduced from eight to six hours a day. The Nemours Post Office would have its hours reduced from eight to two hours a day. The Rock Post Office would be reduced from eight hours to four hours a day. The Anawalt Post Office and Avondale Post Office also would be reduced from eight to four hours a day while the Bartley Post Office would be reduced from eight to two hours a day.

The Berwind Post Office would be reduced from eight hours to four hours a day, and the Big Sandy Post Office would be reduced from six to two hours a day. The Bradshaw Post Office would see its hours of operation reduced from eight to six hours a day, and the Cucumber Post Office would be reduced from four to two hours a day. The Davy Post Office, Elbert Post Office and Gary Post Office would all have their hours of operation reduced from eight hours to four hours a day. The Jenkinjones Post Office would go from six hours to two hours a day and the Jolo Post Office would be reduced from eight hours to six hours a day. The Kimball Post Office would be reduced from eight to four hours a day with the Maybeury Post Office and Pageton Post Office going from eight hours a day to two. The Roderfield Post Office, Squire Post Office and Thorpe Post Office would be reduced from eight hours a day to four and the Wilcoe Post Office would go from eight hours to two hours a day.

The Lindside Post Office would be reduced from eight to six hours a day and the Amonate Post Office and Bandy Post Office would be reduced from four to two hours.

The Bishop Post Office, Falls Mills Post Office, Jewell Ridge Post Office and Keen Mountain Post Office would all have their hours reduced from eight to four hours a day. Post offices in Narrows and Rich Creek also would see their hours reduced from eight to six hours a day.

The reduced hours will be implemented over a period of two years with completion scheduled by September 2014.

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com쇓