Garrett Park uneasy about postal changes

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

The Garrett Park Citizens Association met with post office representatives last week to discuss concerns among some residents that the town post office is starting to lose its unique character.

It was the first forum between the two groups since newly appointed Postmistress Kathy Matczak took over in October, replacing longtime Postmistress and Garrett Park resident Veronica Sauvain.

‘‘Garrett Park thinks of the post office as a very important social function,” said Hans Wegner, a member of the Garrett Park Town Council who attended the meeting. ‘‘It’s not just a place for us to pick up mail, it’s a place for socialize.”

In Garrett Park, residents rent boxes and check their mail at the post office, located in the Penn Place building, instead of receiving home delivery.

‘‘It was a big, big cause in the 1950s when the town fought off home delivery,” said Barbara Shidler, a Garrett Park resident since 1961 and town archivist. ‘‘But it’s the center of town. It’s where everybody meets everybody. That’s where you find out who’s sick, who’s going to have a baby, who’s kids go to school...we’re big on community.”

And on March 29, U.S. Postal Operations Manager John Cordell and Matczak promised the nearly 40 people in attendance that he would work to strike a balance between resident concerns about community with the post office’s need to run a business.

The meeting came four months after Matczak, a 20-year postal employee, proposed changing post office hours.

‘‘The postal service has a lot of rules and regulations,” Cordell said. ‘‘But we’re gonna soften how some of that’s applied.”

The store hours ‘‘aren’t going to change,” and residents will still be allowed to take postal bins with overflow mail home as long as they return them, Cordell said.

Cordell also said residents could pick up packages and their mail without keys as long as they can show identification that they live at the address, and as long their name is on a post office waiver granting permission.

This would not apply to certain packages that require the signature of a particular resident in order to be delivered, Cordell said.

He also instructed residents of the proper way their addresses should appear — name on the first line, street address on the second line, post office box on the third line and the city, state and ZIP code on the fourth line — so that they receive all their mail.

‘‘We’ve been spoiled that for...years we’ve had a postmistress who’s also been a resident here in Garrett Park, who’s overlooked indiscretions,” Wegner said of Sauvain, who served from 1996 to 2005.

One of those indiscretions, Wegner said, included making sure residents still got their mail even when the address was incorrectly written on the envelope. But, he acknowledged, previous postmistresses were able to do that because they were familiar with the names and addresses of residents.

‘‘I told people when I was moving to Garrett Park it was like moving to Mayberry,” said eight-year resident Joy Siegel, who attended the meeting. ‘‘Having our post office box is a very coveted benefit. When you go to a community place to pick up your mail you always see your neighbors.”

But Siegel, who recently received a notice that her post office box was closing since she hadn’t been picking up her mail regularly, said she has been frustrated by what she sees as ‘‘over zealous enforcement” of postal rules.

Still, Siegel said she is hopeful by Cordell’s promises.

‘‘I thought he seemed to be an excellent moderator of the situation,” Siegel said. ‘‘I felt confident he was going to make things better.”