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Neighbors plead case for Port Royal post office

About 25 residents of the town of Port Royal told a post office representative Tuesday that they don’t want the hours of their post office reduced.

The U.S. Postal Service is proposing to reduce the hours to six per day, instead of the eight it is currently open.

The tiny town’s residents can’t get mail delivered to their homes, so they rely on the post office for regular mail and deliveries of packages.

Also, in a town with fewer than 200 residents, many of them older, the post office is considered a living, breathing, busy place in the town. And it’s been open continuously there since the 1700s.

Gale Phillips, the Postal Service operations manager for the Colonial District, told the crowd that the process of evaluating post offices began about two years ago, and many are having their hours reduced instead of closing.

Although the services would be the same at the post office, it would not have a postmaster.

The town’s residents said they didn’t want to lose Chris Hawkins, who’s been their postmaster since 2003. He’s built a relationship with the community and they trust him with their mail, they said.

Phillips told those attending that of 266 surveys that were sent out, 108 responses were received. She said of those, 101 people said that given the options, people wanted the hours reduced. There wasn’t an option on the survey to leave the post office as is.

The options were:

  • Keep the post office open, but reduce hours from eight a day to six. Current hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with it closed a half-hour at lunch. Saturday hours would stay the current 8 a.m. to noon.
  • Close the office and offer roadside mailbox delivery.
  • Close the office and find an alternative location operated by a local business.
  • Close the office and provide post office box service at a nearby post office.

Some residents told Phillips that they had heard that not everyone actually got the survey, so they didn’t think it was an accurate representation of the town’s feelings. She said she would leave blank surveys at the post office for anyone who did not get to complete one.

Port Royal Mayor Nancy Long said she felt that the survey was misleading—it limited the choices to options that they did not want.

“They shouldn’t mess with success. Why mess with something that is making money?” Long asked.

Cleo Coleman, the head of the Historic Port Royal organization, also expressed her dissatisfaction with the process. She said she wanted to go above Phillips’ head to see what could be done and talked about starting a petition to build support.

The proposed new hours would be 9:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Monday through Friday, with a lunch break from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. The Saturday hours would stay the same.

Phillips said that Hawkins will have the option to stay in Port Royal, but not to be the postmaster.

He will also have the option to keep his full-time and benefits status, but for that he would have to reapply and be sent to work elsewhere. Phillips did say there was a job for Hawkins.

Hawkins has until Jan. 9 to decide, Phillips said.

Any future changes could not be made without another public meeting and public notice.

She said that it would be re-evaluated again and that there’s a possibility that it could be restored to the full eight hours, if there is an increase in need.

“All that’s needed is customers and mail,” she told the crowd.

She said the Postal Service comes up with a formula—not necessarily based on revenue—that has to do with the amount of workload and work hours.

“As long as you continue using the office, it won’t diminish it,” she said.

Many people at the meeting were curious about how much more business there has to be for the facility to stay as is, but Phillips didn’t have an answer for them.

Monica Chenault, a member of the Town Council, said she felt like the decision to reduce the hours was made before anyone actually studied the Port Royal community.

“It sounds like the person making the decision did not have the facts,” she said.

Mike Newman, another town resident, pointed out that the other post offices in the area that may have their hours reduced are different than Port Royal’s office.

He said those are crossroads—not actual towns with communities.

Deborah Clarke Hall, who lives in the town, said she makes an effort to go to the Port Royal Post Office, even though she’s unable to leave the house some days. She, and others, said it would be difficult to drive several miles to another office.

No decisions will be made right away, Phillips said.

Robyn Sidersky: 540/374-5413


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