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Residents work to keep Gepp Post Office open

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Gepp post office has more than 200 dedicated customers. Many plan to attend a March 8 meeting at the Gepp Volunteer Fire Department to try to convince the postal service that their post office should stay open. The Gepp facility is among small, rural post offices across the country listed for closure, because of the postal service's mounting debt. Photo by Richard Irby
A community meeting in early March may help determine the future of the Gepp Post Office in western Fulton County.

"We are trying to tell everybody in the community about it, to try to convince them (the U.S. Postal Service) to keep it open," said Gepp resident Max Shrable.

Shrable, a member of the Gepp Volunteer Fire Department, confirmed that the postal system has reserved the fire department for a community meeting on March 8, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Several people in the Gepp area began a petition drive to show support for the post office after learning it is one of the post offices in this area being studied for possible closure.

"I've been going over a route, going to homes where people get mail delivered, to get petitions signed," said Gepp resident Ethel Morris. "I've gone to 80 homes probably. Everybody I'm talking to don't want it to close."

The postal system would like to close many smaller post offices that lose money. It desperately needs to cut costs, after losing $8.5 billion last year.

Under federal law, post offices cannot be closed just because they operate at a deficit.

The postal service can close a post office only for specific reasons such as maintenance problems, unsafe conditions, an expired lease or a postmaster's retirement.

"Around here, they are not hiring new postmasters when one leaves," Pineville Mayor Gloria Schinkal told The News. "They are running more post offices with "Officers in Charge," who are paid by the hour. Without a postmaster, it makes it easier for them to close."

Schinkal began researching laws regulating how post offices are closed after finding that Pineville is also listed for possible closure.

"Pineville, Gepp, Wideman, Violet Hill, and Ida are being studied for closure," said Schinkal. "One of the steps is to hold a community meeting before a decision is made."

Schinkal also said the postal service must give public notice to inform citizens about a community meeting.

Gepp Post Office Officer in Charge, Karen Shrable, said she is not allowed to comment to the news media.

Gepp residents said they have received no information from the postal service, as yet, about a public meeting, although word the fire department has been reserved for a meeting has spread throughout the community.

"When I go to people's homes with my petition, I am giving them a print out about the meeting, so we can get a good crowd there," said Harris.

Harris added, "A lot of us are older around here and, as we get older, we don't want to go further for things."

If the Gepp post office was to close, mail carriers would continue home deliveries and residents would likely be served by the post office at Viola, about seven miles away, or the Elizabeth post office, about five miles away.

"Our building isn't very old and it is right on the highway (Highway 62/412)," said Shrable. "It doesn't make any sense to close it."

Shrable said there has been a post office in Gepp since the late 1940s. He knows because it was moved there after his mother retired and closed a store she ran in Vidette, which included the post office which served the area.

"They moved the post office to Joe Campbell's store on Highway 62, when it was still a gravel road," said Shrable.

Since a post office must have a name, he added that was when the surrounding area became Gepp. "Residents wanted to name the area "Jeep" but the postal system wouldn't allow it, so it was spelled "Gepp."

Like residents of Gepp, people in small, rural areas all over the country are alarmed that they may lose post offices that have operated for 50 to 100 years or more.

Critics say it is unfair that the largest number of proposed post office closings are in rural areas, where the postal system has always been a vital link to the rest of the nation.

The postal service claims rural post offices must be consolidated because, in this computer age, more people are paying bills on line and communicating by e-mail. Therefore, fewer brick and mortar post offices are needed.

The News will continue to seek official postal service confirmation of the March 8 community meeting. It is known, however, the Gepp Fire Department has been reserved for a meeting from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

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