LORENTZ - Concerned residents attended community meetings Tuesday regarding the United States Postal Service's announcement that service hours will be reduced at three Upshur County post offices.
A meeting was held at each of the three locations - Lorentz, Arden and French Creek. At the Lorentz meeting, Dave Hamrick, the manager of Post Office Operations, attempted to explain the situation to postal customers and employees. About a dozen people attended the Loretnz meeting, but Hamrick said he usually sees fewer than that.
"This is actually one of the largest groups I've had, and I've been to some big towns," Hamrick said.
Among those in attendance was Postmaster Gloria Davis, who said the changes could affect her job. She said her position is being terminated on Sept. 30 through an early retirement plan.
"We're trying to fight to keep the post office open for the four hours it is open to serve the community," Davis said, "and for the indigent and the poor people that don't have computers or the money to travel."
"That's what tonight's meeting is about, to propose a time and what's best for the community. It's not best for the community to close up because people can't get here in a two-hour window," Davis said.
"You wouldn't open JC Penny's for two hours and expect them to do the revenue, would you? It's gross negligence is what it is."
Davis also said post offices in Ellamore and Kanawha Head have been shut down in recent years.
Hamrick said the Postal Service will reduce the service hours of the Lorentz Post Office from its current 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday schedule to only two-hour days from Monday through Friday and for four hours Saturday.
He said what two hours the location remains open is still undetermined, but that the Postal Service has suggested operating between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. through the week, with no change in the Saturday schedule.
Hamrick said the changes will not affect the customer post office boxes, only the retail window. He said the decision to reduce the hours of the post office is not one that can be changed after hearing from citizens. The purpose of the meeting was to gather feedback from the community regarding the hours of operation which he would then submit for review, he said.
Ted Biser, a local citizen, asked how much money the Postal Service would be able to save by simply reducing the hours when they will still be paying utilities, but Hamrick said he was unable to answer that. Hamrick said there was no intent to shut the Lorentz Post Office down.
"Why reduce the hours then?" Biser asked, adding, "It looks like you would consider what's your reasonable revenue. Theoretically, you could lose 50 percent of your revenue. You're really going to go in the hole then."
Hamrick said the decisions made by the Postal Service are always reevaluated on a yearly basis based on revenue.
"We've got to use the Lorentz Post Office as much as possible," Hamrick said, adding that was how to get revenue up.
Hamrick noted stamps can now be purchased online and bills can be paid through online banking. Many attendees said not everyone can use the Internet.
"Believe it or not, not everyone has Internet, computer and a cellphone," Aubrey Linger said.
"What about the people that don't have the machines," John Daugherty said. "I don't believe in them, and I don't have them."
Hamrick said some retail locations can opt to serve as a postal retail location, but several local residents said there are no retail stores in Lorentz.
Although most of the attending citizens aired grievances against the changes, the residents' concensus regarding the hours of operation was to recommend changing the proposed 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Davis said more customers usually traffic the post office around the lunch hour and pushing the time back by a half hour allows more overlap in that time frame.
Hamrick said after the hours are finalized by the Postal Service, a 30-day notice of the new hours is required before they can officially be instituted. However, he said it is possible the change may not occur until January.
Biser said the reduced hours could pose a new problem for the post office when it comes to keeping staff members, adding no one would want to keep a job that was only two hours a day, but requires a week-long commitment.
Hamrick said he has visited many locations where this type of change is happening, including some post offices that have been reduced from eight hours a day to two.
The Postal Service's proposed hours for the French Creek reduce operations to about six hours per day. The proposed hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with a lunch from 11:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Monday through Friday.Saturday hours are proposed from 7:15 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.
For Arden, the proposed hours are from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday and from 9:15 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.
The proposed hours for each of the three locations in Upshur County are subject to change and have not officially been decided, Hamrick said.