Although a recent public meeting to inform the Gasquet community of U.S. Postal Service plans to cut office hours in half at its Gasquet branch was standing-room-only, the community response won't change USPS plans to reduce office hours in Gasquet to just four hours each weekday beginning Jan. 1, 2015.
"This change is going to go ahead and follow through," Postmaster Robyn Dal Porto said.
At the Aug. 6 meeting, Rio Dell Postmaster Debra Lake answered questions fromabout 80 mail customers for over an hour, according to Gasquet resident Wendy Bertrand. Lake explained that mail volume - measured by incoming first class mail - for the Gasquet Post Office is down 23 percent from 2012, when USPS last proposed cutting the branch's hours. As office hours are based on the income each post office generates, Gasquet isn't doing enough business to warrant maintaining full-time window hours, according to Lake.
During the discussion with Lake, several Gasquet residents posed ideas about how the community could raise the post office's scores for next year's USPS review, Bertrand noted, with some expressing concern that the branch might close in the future.
Ideas for increasing revenue at the branch included buying all stamps and packaging products at the Gasquet Post Office; sending all packages from the Gasquet Post Office; receiving mail at a Gasquet address and writing to Congressman Jared Huffman to ask for more hours for the Gasquet Post Office. Residents who have a business address outside of Gasquet should send any business-related mail from their Gasquet address to count toward Gasquet's mail volume, Bertrand added.
Although shortened office hours aren't ideal, Bertrand said one longtime resident pointed out that the situation could be worse.
"Unlike most of you, I was here before any post office existed," Lynn Morris said. "Only a bag was dropped off along the road. Four hours (of window service) is a much better deal."
For the record, Bertrand says, when the crowd was asked for a show of hands in favor of keeping the Gasquet branch open full-time, "most hands went up."
The post office'scurrent weekday operating hours are 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30andndash;4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. 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.
Dal Porto said the changes will leave her unemployed, as she does not intend to move away from the area for another USPS job, and the Gasquet Post Office will only require a part-time non-career employee to run the branch after Jan. 1. In the meantime, she's hoping another local full-time position opens in Crescent City or Smith River.
"(Dal Porto) will be a great loss to the Postal Service and to Gasquet, as shown by the caring comments and respect for her work by the standing-room-only crowd," Bertrand noted.
Despite the dim outlook for full-time mail service in Gasquet, Dal Porto said she was overwhelmed by the support.
"I do absolutely appreciate the turnout," she said.
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