Reply to PostStar editorial on Hartford Post Office

In today’s (2/6/13) Post Star newspaper, there was an editorial regarding the Hartford Post Office. In response, I have requested that my reply, shown below be submitted as a “Guest Essay”. A Guest Essay allows 650 words which is about twice as many words as a Letter to the Editor allows. Dana

Dear Editor,

I feel that the editorial of 2/6/13 regarding the operations of rural Post Offices, specifically Hartford’s, overlooks some important facts and issues. While I will address the issues of the Hartford Post Office, these same issues also hold true for other rural Post Offices facing a reduction in retail counter operations.

The Hartford Town Board recognizes that in times of economic hardship, you may need to downsize in order to survive. We do not dispute the need to reduce hours of retail counter operations as long as the hours are ones that make sense.

The USPS has proposed the hours of 8am-12pm for Hartford’s retail sales counter. This is when a Postal employee will be in the building to take your packages or sell money orders and stamps. I feel the proposed morning hours are blind to the customer base and retail sales side of the business. Only customers that are the boss, retired or unemployed can go during those morning hours. The largest employer in town is the Hartford Central School K-12 which dismisses at 2:30pm. The staff of the school cannot go to the Post Office between 8am-12pm. If you work in town and quickly want to run up during your lunch break to mail a package or buy stamps, guess what? the Post Office just closed the retail counter as soon as your lunch break began.

If you were ever at school at 2:30pm dismissal time you would notice quite a few parents arriving to pick up their kids. A business like the Post Office, that depends upon customers driving to your store front would be foolish not to take advantage of a large influx of car traffic from school staff and parents of school children just a quarter of a mile down Main Street from you between the hours of 2:30 to 3pm every work day. Also a large percentage of Hartford’s citizens work out of town and cannot get to the Post Office until after work.

The hours of 8am to 12 noon are very business unfriendly. This is the beauty of the Town’s desire to have the weekday retail counter hours set for 2pm-6pm with Saturday remaining unchanged at 8am-11:30am. If you want to run a business and be successful, you must consider your retail customer base and when your customers would be available. The Town of Hartford wants the Post Office to be successful as that is the best way to insure it will not close.

Any issues with the attached PO Box room being unlocked so a box holder can access their mail can be remedied with a time-clock-lock put on the exterior access door. This would automatically lock and unlock the door based upon the time of day without human interaction. If you happened to be in the room when the door locks behind you, you can simply let yourself out with a door unlock push bar like many emergency exits have.

The initiative that the Town Board of Hartford has adopted regarding the Post Office operations is supported by Assemblyman Tony Jordan, Congressional Rep. Chris Gibson and Congressional Rep Bill Owens. Article II Section 8 of the United States Constitution states that Congress shall have the power to establish Post Offices.

The problems of the USPS are many and need to be addressed by Congress, The fact that the USPS pension plan is pre-funded to the point that a future employee, not even born yet, is already covered, is absolutely ridiculous if it means that my Town has to loose its Post Office.

If the USPS has the ultimate goal of closing these rural Post Offices and want to use a dramatic drop in retail sales as justification, then turning a blind eye to your customer base will be a self fulfilling prophesy.

Dana Haff
Hartford Town Supervisor