The future of mail delivery in Gasquet will be the subject of a public meeting Wednesday, and it's a meeting Gasquet residents won't want to miss, according to Smith River Postmaster Ken Miller.
Unless there is a significant outcry from the community, the U.S. Postal Service plans to reduce office hours in Gasquet to just four hours each weekday beginning Jan. 1, 2015. Current weekday operating hours are 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30andndash;4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
"This meeting is to see if anyone objects (to cutting the post office hours)," Miller explained. "There's quite a bit of impact to the community, and we're trying to encourage people to go."
A previously publishedTriplicate article contained incorrect information about the purpose of the meeting and its current weekday hours.
Saturday window service hours of 9andndash;11 a.m. and P.O. box access hours (24 hours every day except Sunday) won't change under the proposed cutbacks, according to a July 1 USPS notice to all Gasquet postal customers. Enclosed with the notice was a survey asking which of four options for mail service the respondent would like to see going forward.
The first of the four alternatives was to keep the office open at a reduced schedule of four hours per weekday.
The other three options call for conducting a "discontinuance study" for the post office, and either 1) providing roadside mailbox delivery; 2) finding a suitable alternative location for a private contractor to operate a mail service; or 3) providing P.O. box service with mail delivery at another nearby post office.
Upon reviewing survey results, "unless the community has a strong preference (more than 60 percent) for conducting a discontinuance study for the Gasquet Post Office ... the Postal Service intends to maintain the Gasquet Post Office with four hours of window service each weekday," the notice read.
The Postal Service proposed shortening its Gasquet hours in 2012, but the cuts are just now becoming a reality, Miller said.
"What it amounts to is (hours) haven't been shortened yet, but they will be Jan. 1," he said.
The post office's two employees, Postmaster Robyn Dal Porto and another full-time worker, stand to have their positions eliminated or hours reduced, Miller added. As Dal Porto is on a two-week medical leave, she won't be able to attend Wednesday's meeting, but Miller will be there to offer support for keeping the office open at its current hours. He believes reducing office hours to four a day would be frustrating for the community and would make it difficult for the Gasquet branch to offer efficient mail service. If the post office is open less, people will use it less, and then the Postal Service will cut hours even further or even close the branch, Miller explained.
"You get a downward spiral, and it's the way to ruin the post office," he said.
If the office is open just four hours per day, it's likely that the daily deadline for outgoing mail would change, Miller added. That could lead to a situation similar to Brookings', where outgoing mail is now picked up at 11 a.m. - something customers are not happy about, he said.
Wednesday's meeting begins at 4:30 p.m. at the U.S. Forest Service Conference Room, 10600 U.S. Highway 199 in Gasquet.
Reach Melea Burke at email@example.com .