Great Cacapon voices anger over postal cuts
More than 150 people packed the former Great Cacapon Elementary School on Wednesday evening, October 24, to express outrage and concern about a proposed cut in hours for the Great Cacapon Post Office.
A second public meeting will be held Thursday, November 1, at 7 p.m. by the Morgan County Commissioners. That meeting will also be held at the former school.
The Great Cacapon community has begun a letter-writing campaign to government and postal officials to appeal the cuts.
The Great Cacapon Post Office is presently showing a profit, but weekday hours are being cut from eight to six hours. This was seen by some as the prelude to the post office closing altogether.
The possible loss of Postmaster Rick Dunn because of the cuts had many upset at last week’s meeting. Some called the reduced hours “a done deal” without community input.
Patty Jessee, area manager of U.S. Postal Service operations, told the crowd that the decision has been made to cut the branch hours, as early as January 12.
Public input is sought to determine the best window service hours, which would probably be 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. with lunch from 1 to 2:15 p.m., Jessee said. Saturday hours would remain 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
A final decision is expected at any time.
Jessee said 376 of the 860 customer surveys mailed out were returned. Some 362 or 96% of the survey responses chose the realignment of hours option. No change wasn’t a possible choice.
Other options included all mail being delivered by rural carriers, a post office in a local store or Great Cacapon post office customers using Berkeley Springs or Paw Paw.
Jessee said the U.S. Postal Service is facing serious financial problems from less revenue since more business is being done online. They have cut personnel, consolidated mail operations and frozen executive salaries. Every post office is being assessed for the possibility of reduced hours to cut expenses.
Some wondered if Saturday window hours could be eliminated to keep Dunn working 40 hours.
Jessee said the position would be posted as six hours a day and that Dunn is an 8-hour a day employee. Dunn was a Berkeley Springs Post Office supervisor and has been serving as the officer-in-charge at Great Cacapon, but has not been officially appointed postmaster.
One person suggested Dunn be paid for an eight-hour day with benefits while working six hours, since he puts in more hours than required.
Louise Doucette, a small business owner, said she did package delivery through the Great Cacapon Post Office. Dunn makes doing business there “amazingly wonderful,” she said.
“The reason he’s so good is he’s pleasant to everyone, very professional and so willing to go the few extra miles,” Doucette said.
She felt it was a bad economic decision to change anything about the facility and said that if the quality of service changes, they’ll lose her business.
Lynn Hiles said he drives to the Great Cacapon Post Office to ship books and CDs for his ministries all over the world because of the quality of service he receives there.
Residents praised Dunn for organizing community food drives, supply drives for the Morgan County Backpack Program, a children’s reading area and a book swap program with the Morgan County Public Library.
Morgan County Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson, a Great Cacapon resident, said the Post Office is the center and heart of the community.
“They need someone like Rick to teach them how to do their jobs,” she said of the Postal Service.
One woman said she lives 10miles from the post office. Her mailbox is three-quarters of a mile from her home so packages are not left there. If hours are cut, she can’t combine stopping at the Post Office and going out to do errands, she said.
Several people commented on the dangerous trek that people would have in bad weather to get to Berkeley Springs or Paw Paw post offices, which are six and 15 miles away respectively.
Beth Shaver said Dunn helps the elderly and those with health problems. He calls when their gas vouchers are in and brings the mail out to the car because it’s difficult for her to come inside.
Dunn called in a welfare check on an elderly person he hadn’t seen in a few days and saved her life, she said.
“We need to keep him and give him a raise,” Shaver said.
Former Postmaster Louise Spring said she didn’t want to lose Dunn. She called him “Mr. Sunshine.”
Spring felt residents deserve a piece of the government as citizens of the United States. It is something that small communities are denied over and over, she said.
County Commissioners Hutchinson and Stacy Dugan attended the meeting and arranged tomorrow’s public hearing.
Many urged writing letters to the Postal Service and legislators to stop the cuts.
Contact information for legislators and postal officials and a sample letter were made available to residents by Hutchinson.
Jessee said it was her ninth community meeting and that only five to 20 people had attended previous meetings.
The outpouring from the Great Cacapon area was unprecedented, she said.
She expressed pride in Dunn’s service and promised to take community comments back to her supervisor.
Paw Paw Post Office
The Paw Paw Post Office is also scheduled to be evaluated for a reduction of weekday hours from eight to six, Jessee said.
That assessment won’t be done until 2014 because Paw Paw has an official postmaster.