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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 19, 2011

Will P.O. close?

By Saranac Hale Spencer

GUILDERLAND CENTER — Scores of residents gathered last night to express their opposition to the prospect of closing Guilderland Center’s post office, an option being considered by the U. S. Postal Service.

Financially strapped and looking for relief from employee pensions and a reduction to a five-day-a-week delivery schedule, the Postal Service is also hoping to save money by consolidating some offices, explained Margaret Pepe, manager for marketing and customer relations for the Albany district, which goes as far north as the Canadian border and includes 724 post offices.

She gathered concerns from residents at Wednesday’s forum, held at the Helderberg Reformed Church in the hamlet of Guilderland Center.

Many residents referred to the post office as the hub of their small community and expressed dismay at the idea of driving four miles to get their mail in Altamont, which is in the opposite direction that many people regularly travel.

Although residents would have the option of having home delivery, many people were worried about the safety of using mail boxes on busy roads, like Route 146, and the effects on temperature-sensitive medicines sitting in mailboxes in the winter and summer.

One man commented on the volume of mail generated by the industrial park in Guilderland Center and a woman representing a business there noted that her office needs to have access to its mail every morning.  Another man commented on the residual effect that the post office, located in a small plaza, has on businesses, since people often pick up a coffee at the deli before they go next door to get their mail.

“The hamlet of Guilderland Center is an area that is currently in the process of creating its own unique sense of place,” Guilderland town Supervisor Kenneth Runion wrote to the Postal Service.  Donald Csaposs, the town’s grant writer, read the letter on Runion’s behalf at the forum.  Runion noted the neighborhood planning study undertaken for the hamlet and the possibility of sidewalks on the hamlet’s major thoroughfare.

It was clear that residents at the meeting were strongly opposed to having their mail handled by Altamont’s post office.  Pepe said that, in the event the Postal Service chooses to close the Guilderland Center office, it could explore the option of using another post office besides Altamont’s.  That office has the staff and space to accommodate Guilderland Center’s mail, she said.

Guilderland Center’s office is under consideration for closure because it meets one of three criteria — the postmaster’s position is currently vacant.  The post hasn’t been filled since the last post master resigned a year ago.  While the office has someone running it, the position hasn’t been filled because the Postal Service has had a freeze on appointments, Pepe said.

The other two criteria that can trigger consideration for closure are either an inability to negotiate reasonable terms with a leaser, if the office space is rented, or if there is a natural disaster, like a flood, at the office.

Before last year, Pepe said, no offices had been closed in her district for 10 or 12 years.  Within the last year, since the Postal Service has been facing severe financial difficulties, three postal stations in Albany have been consolidated and two postal stations in Syracuse have been closed.

A postal station in Scotia was recently considered for closure, Pepe said, but has remained open and there were some in Albany that had been considered, but not closed.

The average amount of time it takes for the federal-level decision to be handed down is between nine months and a year, Pepe said.

If the Guilderland Center office is slated to close, residents will have 30 days to appeal the decision to the Postal Rate Commission.  Sean Shortell, of Congressman Paul Tonko’s office, told those gathered on Wednesday that, while he is neutral, his office has handled appeals and would be able to help.  He also encouraged people to send letters detailing their concerns to Tonko’s office.

“Taking away the post office is taking away our identity,” said Allen Jager, pastor of the Helderberg Reformed Church.

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