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Wendell residents rally ’round post office

  • Robyn Carroll, 6 months, sports a "Save my Post Office" t-shirt and an "I heart Charlie" button at a protest outside the Wendell Town Hall on Tuesday, immediately before a meeting with USPS officials on the possible closure of the town Post Office. "It would be a huge change in our quality of life to lose our post office," said her mother Anna Seeger, shown on right, who praised postmaster Charlie O'Dowd for his personalized attention to customers.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    Robyn Carroll, 6 months, sports a "Save my Post Office" t-shirt and an "I heart Charlie" button at a protest outside the Wendell Town Hall on Tuesday, immediately before a meeting with USPS officials on the possible closure of the town Post Office. "It would be a huge change in our quality of life to lose our post office," said her mother Anna Seeger, shown on right, who praised postmaster Charlie O'Dowd for his personalized attention to customers.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • Wendell residents protest the closure of their town post office outside the town hall on Tuesday, sporting a banner handmade by school art teacher "Sally-Alley Muffin-Stuffin", shown on far right.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    Wendell residents protest the closure of their town post office outside the town hall on Tuesday, sporting a banner handmade by school art teacher "Sally-Alley Muffin-Stuffin", shown on far right.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • Wendell residents gather outside the town post office on Tuesday to protest its possible closure.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    Wendell residents gather outside the town post office on Tuesday to protest its possible closure.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • A Wendell resident who refused to be identified "rides in" to the Tuesday protest of the post office closure on "the pony express".<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    A Wendell resident who refused to be identified "rides in" to the Tuesday protest of the post office closure on "the pony express".
    Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • Purchase photo reprints »

  • Robyn Carroll, 6 months, sports a "Save my Post Office" t-shirt and an "I heart Charlie" button at a protest outside the Wendell Town Hall on Tuesday, immediately before a meeting with USPS officials on the possible closure of the town Post Office. "It would be a huge change in our quality of life to lose our post office," said her mother Anna Seeger, shown on right, who praised postmaster Charlie O'Dowd for his personalized attention to customers.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • Wendell residents protest the closure of their town post office outside the town hall on Tuesday, sporting a banner handmade by school art teacher "Sally-Alley Muffin-Stuffin", shown on far right.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • Wendell residents gather outside the town post office on Tuesday to protest its possible closure.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • A Wendell resident who refused to be identified "rides in" to the Tuesday protest of the post office closure on "the pony express".<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

WENDELL — Residents met Tuesday evening with representatives of the United States Postal Service over plans to reduce hours or eliminate the main town post office, either of which opponents contend would harm service and the town’s evidently beloved postmaster.

A banner on the town common read “Charley (sic) is our forever stamp.”

Postmaster Charlie O’Dowd has worked in town for about 25 years, and has made friends. In calling on the USPS to preserve O’Dowd’s post and the post office with its current hours, the town Selectboard wrote “Charlie O’Dowd gives the USPS a good reputation and it would be a severe personal loss to our community if he were unable to continue as our postmaster due to changes in USPS policies.”

Selectboard Member Dan Keller read from that letter at Tuesday evening’s meeting in the crowded and stifling Town Hall, to a standing ovation from the 100 or more people in attendance. As of 2012, there were 844 residents in the town of Wendell.

USPS representatives said they were listening to residents and would take their comments further up the chain, but stressed the postal service’s financial situation, speaking of competition from online and cellphone communication and the damage done by a federal mandate that the service fund its employee healthcare years in advance.

“We’re not supported by tax dollars, we are self supporting, so we have to do something,” said USPS district marketing manager Tatiana Roy.

The proposal aired by representatives is for the office to open an hour later and close half an hour earlier Monday through Friday, hours unchanged on Saturdays.

Opponents of the move based many arguments on O’Dowd, who residents said keeps the office open during his lunch hour and performs other services above and beyond.

Lisa Hoag said that O’Dowd drove truck delivery routes in his own car, through storm debris, after the tornados.

“How many postmasters will ask if you need a hug because you just got a big bill in the mail and you look sad about it?” asked Seal LaMadeleine.

Robbie Leppzer, who with Sharon Wachsler presented the community opposition’s stance, said that a loss of hours will downgrade the status of the post office, and force the postmaster to either leave town or take a significant pay cut.

Others spoke of the importance of mail service in a small town with little Internet and cell phone service, and miles of dirt roads preventing deliveries from other mail carriers.

“We’re trying to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and you’re coming here to stand on our bootstraps,” said resident Adam Porter. “We need you here in this community.”

Wachsler said a small group had conducted their own study of a day’s post office use and found there was no hour without customers, from opening to closing and counting unofficial lunch-hour open time. Leppzer contested what he said has been the USPS’s contention that the move is justified by low use of the office, with transactions remotely monitored. Leppzer said the Wendell office doesn’t use computers for most transactions so they must not be monitored.

Postal customers staged a vigil in front of the post office before moving to the Town Hall for the evening hearing, where the hall quickly filled.

In question is the Wendell post office by the Wendell Country Store and Deja Brew cafe and pub. The office is one of two in town. The second and smaller office, up the road in the Wendell Depot neighborhood, faced a similar but less contested threat of closure in 2011. It remains open two hours per day, and one audience member suggested it might be the preferable loss of the two.

State Rep. Denise Andrews, D-Orange, was in attendance.

Begun at 5 p.m., the meeting was ongoing at 6:45 p.m.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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