Black Oak Post Office closure topic of public meeting

Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Terrie Shephard, manager of Post Office Operations, conducts a public meeting in Black Oak.

Terrie Shephard, district manager of Post Office Operations, conducted a public meeting at Black Oak City Hall on Thursday, Nov. 10, to discuss the possible closure of the city's post office.

Shephard spoke about the Post Office as a whole, the decline in mail, a drop in revenue. She stated mail volume has declined 41.3 billion pieces over the last five years. There is a need for change, she said.

She listed ways the Post Office system has cut back including consolidation mail processing operations, adjusting routes, reducing staff, selling unused facilities, freezing executive salaries, and more.

Rep. Homer Lenderman talks to Peggy Williams at the public meeting.

She talked about the time frame of the process to the final determination posted. It will be posted 30 days and residents will have a right to appeal within the 30 days. She pointed out no final decisions have been made.

"We are a government agency but we do not receive any federal funds," she said. "We are required to break even. We get our revenue from the services we offer."

She told the over 40 residents in attendance the Black Oak Post Office has seen revenues drop from $22,259 in 2007 to $17,042 in 2010.

Eddie Dunigan makes comments about closing the Black Oak Post Office.

She said the alternate facility, if Black Oak Post Office closes, will be Caraway. Caraway is eight miles away. She pointed out patrons will be able to keep their same post office box number and Black Oak address. Street delivery will remain the same.

"The street delivery will be available through the Caraway Post Office," she said. Rural mail carriers are like a post office on wheels. They can sell stamps and provide money orders as well as offer other services."

She also talked about centralized boxes and boxes located in a community store or business.

There would be four options for Black Oak patrons. One is a post office box at Caraway, a centralized box unit located in the community, street delivery or a village post office located in a business.

"This is your time to express your comments and concerns," she said. Shepherd said she would take the information gathered and turn it in to a board for review.

Henry Eddie Dunigan led the line of residents with comments and questions asking who determined Caraway Post Office as the alternate post office.

"Caraway is eight miles away and Monette is four miles away," Dunigan said. "They say figures don't lie, but liars do figure. I do not think there is any way to save $800,000 by closing our post office."

Dunigan pointed out Black Oak has a lot of elderly people who can't drive the eight miles to Caraway.

Shepard pointed out Caraway was chosen because of available space and its intermediate route. She also pointed out some customers may opt to go to another, more convenient post office.

Waunell Walton, retired post office employee, spoke about the inconvenience closing the Black Oak Post Office would be on the older residents. She said she is not physically able to go to a post office box at her home and she would not like her mail, including her medicines, left in a box all day. She said it will be a hardship on all of the senior citizens.

"I am opposed to this," she said.

Monda Hutchison said closing the post office would be another nail in the coffin for the town to dry up and blow away. She also pointed out the cost of fuel and the adverse affect closing the post office would be on the elderly in the community.

"If we have to come up with X number of dollars, I think our city would be willing to do it to keep our post office," Hutchison said.

Linda Smith asked what would happen to the Black Oak staff.

"Our postmistress fills out applications for people here and helps them with forms," Smith said. "We're a Podunk Hollow town but we are a band of people who know each other."

Rachel Hickman said she is sad about the possibility of closing the post office.

"I am not going to drive to Caraway to get my mail," she said. "I will go to Jonesboro but it is sad. We will lose our identity as a town."

Jonathan Carmichael said he roughly figured at $6 gas for one trip per week would cost over $12,000 for the people in the room to get their mail. He said there has to be an alternative.

"If we have to pay an additional fee, there has to be a better method than closing," Carmichael said. "We are willing to meet you in the middle."

Peggy Williams said 75 percent of the residents of Black Oak are senior citizens and they don't have computers to pay bills on line. "They will be upset when you change their mail. What do we need to do to keep our post office?" she said.

Dunigan asked if it would make a difference if the town purchased the post office building and did not charge rent and paid the utilities.

"I will submit that and let the board know you are willing to do this," Shepard said.

Jim Spencer suggested everyone in the room write their senators and congressmen to get the bill repealed that Bush signed about the money the Postal Office is having to turn in for future retirees.

Judy Hubble asked how many post offices had been closed and how many offices that appealed had been upheld.

"You made a comment the postal service requires $5.5 billion a year since 2006, Rep. Homer Lenderman said. "If I understand if this had not been required, the post office would be sound, right? Do you know the status of 1351?"

"I don't have the status on that," Shephard said. "That is a part of it, but there are other things also."

She said there is not as many stamps sold, people pay bills on line and the volume is just not what it was.

"We are in a fight for survival," Shephard said. "At the end of the day we want to be able to provide services."

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