Residents debate changes at Fort Howard Post Office
Wednesday, 26 March 2014 13:15

Hours, access to P.O. boxes lead concerns

by John G. Bailey

    Nearly 20 area residents crammed into the small Fort Howard Post Office lobby on March 6 to hear about changes in postal service for the community coming in the near future.
    A steady decline in postal revenues has forced the U.S. Postal Service to alter  or restrict service in many small towns throughout the nation. Fort Howard is one of them.
    A survey was sent to customers of the Fort Howard Post Office listing four options for change. The option that customers preferred, according to a majority of responses, would be implemented.
    The options on the survey were:       
• Keeping the Fort Howard Post office open and reduce the weekday retail hours to six.
• Delivery to cluster boxes  (the sets of outside mail boxes commonly seen in apartment complexes). 
• Providing local service through a village post office, located in an existing retail or government center. Currently, Edgemere is serviced by a village post office in Freedom Drugs.
• Service through another post office in the area. Under that option, Fort Howard cutomers would use the Dundalk Post Office.
    At the meeting at the Fort Howard Post Office,  customers learned the results of the survey. They also had a chance to voice opinions and ideas directly to the postal officials who conducted the meeting — managers Dennis Elliott and Phil Ventura Jr. of the Baltimore Post Office.  
   

Of the 232 surveys mailed to customers, 94 were returned. Among the 94 respondents, 80 percent favored keeping the Fort Howard Post Office.
    Elliott explained that under the option chosen by a majority of respondents, the new retail office hours at Fort Howard would likely be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, with the service window closed for lunch from noon to 1 p.m. The current Saturday hours of 9 to 11 a.m. would remain the same.
    Under the plan chosen, lobby hours for customer access to post office boxes would not change. Lobby hours are 7:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 7:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on Saturdays.
    Access to post office boxes before and after retail hours was a primary concern for customers at the meeting.
    “A lot of people couldn’t make it to the meeting today because of work,” a woman explained. “Is there any way to extend lobby hours for people who work late?”
    An impromptu show of hands showed unanimous support among attendees for extended lobby hours.  “Bottom line as I see it is people here want to keep the post office but want more accessible hours,” another customer summarized.          
    Elliott said that the Postal Service is “not looking to increase any hours.” The only options for discussion at the meeting were the ones in the survey, he said.
    However, he assured customers that the request for lobby hours would be reported. He explained that the postal inspection service would have to assess the security implications of changes in lobby hours before the proposal would be considered.
    A customer asked Elliott about the feasibility of staggering retail hours as a way to provide service at later hours on some days.
    Elliott said that a fixed transportation schedule for the pick up and delivery of mail made staggering hours at Fort Howard unlikely because the Fort Howard route included other post offices, whose hours would also have to be altered to accommodate the change. He also said that staggered shifts would be a hardship on the employees who operate the post office.
    Elliott ended the meeting saying that a final decision on implementing the plan would not be made until customer feedback at the meeting was considered.
    As of this writing, the plan to keep the Fort Howard Post Office had not been finalized or implemented.