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September 19, 2013

Fly Creek postal plan sparks backlash

By Joe Mahoney The Daily Star
Cooperstown Crier

---- — Fly Creek

As a regular user of the small post office in Fly Creek, a village just northwest of Cooperstown, Les Sittler has come to rely on the services it provides for the letters and packages he drops off daily for his nearby law practice.

But the Fly Creek postal station has been swept up by the nation-wide push to reduce the overhead of the U.S. Postal Service. A notice issued by the Postal Service states that the Fly Creek Post Office, effective Oct. 5, will have its weekday hours slashed in half, from being open eight hours a day to four, as part of a “realignment.”

Sittler said the decision to target the Fly Creek station is inexplicable, given the operation turns a profit for the Postal Service.

“Why are they cutting back hours if they are making money?” the veteran lawyer asked.

Contacted by The Daily Star, a Postal Service spokeswoman, Maureen Marion, said the plan to cut hours was aired at a community meeting organized by the Postal Service in Fly Creek in June.

Following that meeting, 419 survey forms were sent out to Fly Creek area residents, resulting in 149 people completing the surveys and returning them. Marion said most people agreed that the plan to cut back the hours of the Fly Creek station was the most suitable option.

Among the other options listed, she acknowledged, was closing the station.

Sittler said the significant reduction in office hours at the local post office will greatly inconvenience local residents, particularly in the summertime, when traffic and limited parking in Cooperstown present obstacles to those who wish to use the postal facility there.

The lawyer has succeeded in persuading Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, to delve into the situation. In a letter to Gibson, Sittler wrote: “We would like the Postal Service not to punish us just because they are having problems elsewhere.”

Gibson spokeswoman Stephanie Valle said the congressman’s staff has been delving into the issue and wants to make sure that rural residents have “easy access” to a local post office.

As the postal system seeks to makes its operations more efficient, she said, “Ensuring that rural communities aren’t unduly hurt in this process is a priority.”

Two other post offices in rural communities that have been mentioned as potential targets for reduction in hours, in Hartwick and Schuyler Lake, are now not facing any cuts to their hours, postal officials said.

Marion said patrons of the Fly Creek post office will still be able to access their postal boxes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. even during those hours when there is no window service.

“That’s an important point for people to chew on in this entire process,” Marion said. “People might not mail a letter every day or buy a stamp every day, but they like to check their mail every day.”

Beginning Oct. 5, window service at the Fly Creek Post Office will only be offered from 1 to 5 p.m. on weekdays.

Saturday service will not be affected, with the facility’s retail operation open from 8:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.