By Jaime Thomas
Residents of Hartford expressed their displeasure at a meeting Thursday night to discuss the future operation of their post office. About 30 people attended the meeting, which was held to share the results of a recent U.S. Postal Service survey and to open discussion about the issue.
Daniel Cronin, post office operations manager, began the meeting by explaining why the Postal Service is making these changes.
“This is part of a nationwide plan to achieve significant cost savings for the postal service, which has lost more than $25 billion since 2007, but also to keep post offices open. It aims to help the postal service return to long-term financial stability,” Cronin said.
Hartford Supervisor Dana Haff opened up public discussion by challenging the way the Postal Service has initiated change.
“The contention that the Hartford town board has is we question the criteria for your survey. If the postal service really wanted to get the thoughts of the people, they really would’ve tried to reach the people,” Haff said.
The Postal Service mailed out survey seeking public input, but only to residents within the 12838 zip code, which is only a small fraction of the population of the township of Hartford and of people who use the post office. Haff mailed out over 400 additional surveys to Hartford residents who have a mailing address in other zip codes, but he is concerned those results were discounted.
Though Cronin said they were probably included, the survey results showed only 162 responses. Of these, 90 percent of residents chose realignment of hours over other options, but locals felt the survey was unclear.
“The survey was worded in such a way to get what they wanted. They’re creating something with a guaranteed result,” Haff said.
Sean Farley, a resident, agreed.
“This meeting is perfunctory. You’re asking us to accept the best of the worst options,” Farley said, to general agreement from the attendees.
Of the surveys that were returned, most selected daily retail hours of 8 a.m. to noon. However, a woman at the meeting initiated a straw vote on that subject, and the majority of people at the meeting wanted the post office to be open in the afternoon instead.
Haff voiced what seemed to be popular opinion that most people in Hartford would not be able to use the office during the hours on offer; he described the town as a bedroom community with many residents not even leaving work elsewhere until 5 p.m.
“Most people who work out of town will only be able to get to the post office one day a week, on Saturday. Will the post office say in a year or two years, ‘use of the post office has decreased dramatically?’ I think it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy, the post office only being open in the morning. People will not be able to avail themselves of the post office if they work,” Haff said.
John Holmes, former town justice, also thinks reduction of hours can only harm business.
“By cutting service to the very people you serve, you haven’t solved anything. This isn’t going to accomplish anything — you’re hurting the wrong people,” Holmes said. “You can make all the promises you want, but I know the decision has been made.”
Cronin said the decision to reduce hours to four per day has been made, but there is no resolution at this point to close down the post office.
Those in attendance at the meeting questioned why Hartford is the only post office in the area to be undergoing these changes — the closest places in the region experiencing similar adjustments are the hamlets of Kattskill Bay and Riparius.
“The only criteria to start reducing hours are post offices that don’t have a postmaster. The reason Hartford is one of the first to be looked at is because it currently has no postmaster,” Cronin said. However, he also admitted the Postal Service did not fill the former postmaster’s empty position when she retired in early summer because they knew the program of cutting hours was happening.
Farley agrees with Haff that these changes will lead to the closure of the post office, and he is not happy about it.
“I get frustrated when I hear that other local post offices aren’t changing. Really, all you’re doing is encouraging me to use the Internet more instead of my local post office,” Farley told Cronin. He does not want to lose access to an important service.
“I hate using the Internet for bills because anyone can hack it. When I lick and seal that envelope, I know it’s secure,” Farley said.
Andy Trombley, a representative for Matt Doheny, read a statement from the congressional candidate.
“A reliable postal service is a written promise made by our forefathers in the constitution. The post office has become part of a community,” Trombley read.
Holmes thought Nadine Tremblay, post office review coordinator, should have attended the meeting.
“The person who sends the letter doesn’t have the courtesy to show up at this meeting. How do you think this makes people feel? It says the postal service really doesn’t give a darn about its customers,” Holmes said.
Cronin said he will look into taking another survey to determine new hours for the post office.