Strong show of support for Woody Creek’s post office

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times

The Woody Creek Community Center was overflowing Thursday evening with people who showed up looking for answers as to why their post office’s hours are being reduced. Many of those people left disappointed and unsatisfied with the few direct answers they received.

The U.S. Postal Service was seeking community input after announcing it was reducing the hours at the Woody Creek facility to six hours a day during the week and remaining open for two hours on Saturdays.

The Woody Creek post office is among the 13,000 post offices across the United States going through a review process known as the POST Plan. The plan is designed to adjust the hours at the nation’s smaller post offices. All post offices at a certain workload rating are scheduled to have window-services hours reduced, including the Woody Creek office.

The large crowd peppered the postal representative, Murray Johnson, with many questions that Johnson wasn’t prepared to answer.

Johnson said his purpose was to get input on what hours the community wanted the Woody Creek post office to operate under the new six-hour-a-day designation beginning in January. Instead, he was asked what the revenue numbers were at Woody Creek, to which he answered he wasn’t sure and that those numbers were in Washington, D.C.

When asked how the public could get those numbers, again he said he wasn’t sure, bringing groans from the packed house.

When Johnson told the crowd the determination to reduce Woody Creek to a six-hour-a-day facility was already made and keeping the office at eight hours a day wasn’t an option, many people spoke up in disbelief.

“Are you saying that the determination is already set?” asked Woody Creek resident Jim Ward. “Then what difference does the opinion here make?”

“None,” Johnson answered. “The six-hour designation is already set for next year.”

The Postal Service sent a survey to Woody Creek residents two months ago seeking input on the future hours for the local post office. At the meeting, a flier was handed out saying that only 21 surveys had been received concerning Woody Creek.

Local resident Valerie Braun brought a stack of copies from 500 surveys she said were sent to the post office via Priority Mail two days in advance of the survey deadline. Braun said the Postal Service claimed it didn’t receive the surveys in time and didn’t include them in its totals.

“We used your service, and it wasn’t on time?” she asked. “That doesn’t make sense.”

Johnson said he would get the surveys back to Denver and that they would be considered.

Another Woody Creek resident, Bob Jenkins, asked how the hour-reduction formula of pieces of mail per employee hour worked if the total overhead of an operation wasn’t considered.

“The post office in Minturn near Vail costs more than $450,000 a year just to rent the facility,” he said. “Here in Woody Creek, the volunteer Fire Department donates the post-office land for $1 a year. The local homeowners’ association pays for the water and sewer at the post office. Other than the labor cost and electricity, there’s no overhead at the Woody Creek post office. By not considering that, the Postal Service is not taking the community effort into its decision.”

The outpouring of community support for her position overwhelmed Woody Creek Postmaster Sherry Mahoney.

“Our community wanted to be heard,” she said. “Their support is incredible.”