From Tonya Pike:
I’m going to apologize upfront for the length of this post, but there are several things to tell. Pursuant to postings on this e-group a couple weeks back, I attended the meeting Friday with the US Postal Service to discuss the fate of the post office in Shelden’s Market at Devils Elbow, Missouri.
There is good news and bad news to report:
First, there apparently has been a change of heart in the US Postal Service since the meetings last year about the Avilla, Missouri post office. The USPS has finally come to understand that the post offices in these small, rural communities are the lifeblood of the community – and the communities are not going to let them go without a fight. The USPS has greatly backed down from its planned closure agenda.
The bad news is that the USPS is still having financial issues, and must revamp operations to become more financially-solvent. This means finding ways to cut costs - especially in the small, rural post offices.
To that end, a survey has been issued to the citizens of Devils Elbow, offering four solutions for their post office. The first option is to leave the post office as-is, but reduce the window hours to four hours a day, Monday thru Friday. Saturday hours would stay the same as they are now. This is the most favored option, and leaves the greatest amount of postal services in place. 95% of the surveys already filled out had voted for this option.
The second option is do a “discontinuance study” and move all postal operations to roadside delivery. The delivering postman then would provide most all of the services now offered thru the post office at Shelden’s Market, and no one in Devils Elbow would be able to have a post office box at the store anymore. This is not a favored option because no one is comfortable leaving money for stamps or money orders in their mailbox, nor does anyone want to sit home all day and wait on the postman to arrive. Less than 3% of the people filling out the survey already had voted for this option.
The third option is to still do a “discontinuance study” and find a suitable alternative location to move the postal operations too. Since the post office at Devils Elbow is already located in Shelden’s Market, this option simply makes no sense. Furthermore, there are only 2 bars and a canoe rental at Devils Elbow, none of which provide any better location for the post office than Shelden’s Market. No one completing the survey thus far had voted for this option.
The fourth option is to do the “discontinuance study”, close the post office, and move all postal operations to another postal location. The next closest post office is in St. Robert, Missouri, over seven miles away. Devils Elbow residents are not fond of this option either. No one wants to have to drive further from home to do their postal business. Like option 3, no one thus far had voted for this option either.
This meeting was conducted by Michael R. Darling, Manager of Post Office Operations out of the Springfield, Missouri post office. Unlike the other meetings I’ve attended in the past year regarding post office closures, this meeting was pretty calm. Darling even commented at the end at how much he appreciated how professionally the citizens of Devils Elbow conducted themselves, as some of the meetings he’d conducted had turned very ugly. Well over 80 of the towns 157 postal customers were in attendance at the 4 p.m. meeting.
Unlike a year ago, it is now up to Mr. Darling, not the Devils Elbow post office staff, to make recommendations as to what is to happen to the post office at Devils Elbow after this meeting with the community. He will develop a “Post Plan” that will detail what he believes should happen to the post office. He stated that it was his desire to leave as much intact as possible, wherever possible.
I raised the point that cutting the hours of operation at Devils Elbow could create a hardship for Route 66 tourists/tour groups that stop there and post mail, as not all of them might be coming thru during the proposed noon to 4 p.m. weekly hours. Just like a year ago at the Avilla meeting, I felt that Mr. Darling was caught a bit off-guard when residents of Devils Elbow echoed my sentiments and told him how often they knew that foreign tourists used the post office there.
Mr. Darling went on to say that his “Post Plan” for the Devils Elbow Post Office is not cut in stone, and that public sentiment can sway what happens. And folks, this is where we come in, and we need to be heard loud and strong.
Unlike a year ago at Avilla, the survey that was sent out to all Devils Elbow residents can be filled out by anyone, not just residents of Devils Elbow. But the kicker is we have seven (7) days to fill this form out and mail it in.
When you print this one page survey out, fill in your mailing address at the top, and then chose option 1, which is the best option for leaving the Devils Elbow post office as intact as possible. Then at the bottom, where it says, “Additional Comments”, please make a brief statement that you do not want to see operations at Devils Elbow altered, that it provides a special experience for Route 66 travelers and that reducing its hours could potentially limit that experience.
These forms are to be mailed to the postmaster at Stockton, Missouri who is tabulating everything for Mr. Darling for the more than 400 post offices he is responsible for. Remember that time is of the essence here and when you have the form complete, please mail it to:
Melissa Vest Postmaster, Stockton 406 East Street Stockton, MO 65785-9998 USA
IF YOU ARE IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY, WE ESPECIALLY NEED YOUR HELP!! Obviously, if you mail the form from a foreign country, it probably won’t reach the Stockton postmaster in 7 days. However, your input is STILL very important and much needed!! If we can prove that this post office is valuable to those of you outside the USA, there is a small chance that Mr. Darling might rule to leave it as-is, with no alteration in hours. But he must hear from those of you outside the USA to know that you do exist, you have used that post office or been in Shelden’s Market, and don’t want to see it closed. Closure of the post office could potentially mean the end of Shelden’s Market as traffic to the post office creates a lot of Shelden’s business traffic.
I was assured, that even if the forms from a foreign country arrive late, there will still be a record they arrived and where they came from. Getting forms from every roadie we can in the USA is important, but getting ones from those of you in foreign countries gives extra leverage to the argument that the Devils Elbow post office must be left open as-is because of the unique experience it affords on Route 66, particularly for non-Americans.
The Route 66 community came thru a year ago for the Avilla community in their quest to keep their post office open. I’m told they received a large number of letters from Route 66′ers and that it did have a positive influence on their operations. They are still open, and as far as I know, operating as always. This time, I’m not asking for 4 letters sent to 4 different places (as was the case with Avilla), just one survey form sent to one person. So please everyone, take 10 minutes to do this. If you have ever been to Devils Elbow and been in Shelden’s Market you know what a special place it is. This is your chance to be heard and help have a voice in something that, to lose it, could spell death for a whole Route 66 community. Thank you for your help!!