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Friday, May 6, 2016

Gepp Post Office still on the chopping block

Friday, July 15, 2011

Gepp residents at a March meeting about their local post office possibly closing.
After a well attended meeting in March to oppose the proposed closing of the Gepp Post Office, and submitting a petition, with 400 names, supporting their post office, Gepp residents have been anxiously awaiting further word from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).

A television news report on July 5 claimed the Gepp Post Office was closing on Friday, July 8.

But Lisa Toliver-Gaye, a USPS Customer Service Coordinator in Little Rock, told The News the report was in error.

"A final determination proposal has been filed," said Toliver-Gaye. "But no date has been set for the closing of the post office."

Toliver-Gaye said the determination proposal was on an "internal list" and, since it is not a public document, the newspaper could not obtain a copy of it.

The final determination proposal apparently upholds the decision to eventually close the post office at Highway 62/412 and Highway 87, west of Viola.

There were also findings regarding two other area post offices in the area, which are on the closure list.

According to Pineville Mayor Gloria Schinkal, the post office at Pineville received a final determination supporting its proposed closing.

"I will definitely be filing an appeal," said Schinkal, who has worked to organize her community to fight the move to close the post office. "Residents here in Pineville and in Gepp need to continue to write letters to oppose the closings."

Because there has been little public opposition expressed at Wideman, the USPS has issued a finding that the Wideman post office will be closed, perhaps as soon as 60 days.

According to Schinkal, only six people attended the public hearing the USPS held in Wideman to judge public reaction to the closing proposal.

"Residents in Wideman have not filed an appeal," said Schinkal, "so that allows the postal service to move forward to close that office."

The USPS has experienced widespread public opposition to closing unprofitable post offices, after losing $8.5 billion dollars in 2010. It claims that communities will feel few negative affects from losing a post office, as a neighboring post office will continue home delivery, and that office will be a reasonable distance to provide counter service and post office boxes.

"If they close our post office, we will have to go to Viola, which is seven miles away," said Gepp resident Ethel Morris, who has been active in the effort to fight the proposed closing of the Gepp Post Office. "That is too far away, since so many of us in this area are elderly."

Morris said Gepp residents have been in the dark about the latest post office decision because Karen Shrable, who runs the Gepp Post office, was off from work last week.

"If they are still saying the post office is closing, we will definitely file an appeal," said Morris. "A lot of us are at the point where we feel, 'To heck with it,' but we're still trying. We haven't given up."

Many citizens complain that the process the USPS is using to close post offices is impossible to understand, and the rules seem to keep changing.

After a postal service foul-up in late June, Rep. Mike Ross, who represents southwest Arkansas, is demanding that U.S. Postmaster Patrick Donahoe explain exactly how the closure process works, and whether it is fair.

Ross is upset because three communities in his district recently had their public hearings to try to convince the postal service their offices should remain open.

While citizens were told it would take time for the postal service to review the public comments, the post offices in Boles, Ozan and Parks, Arkansas received letters on June 21, announcing a final determination had been made that the post offices would close.

After Congressman Ross' office contacted the postal service, it was informed the letters were in error and had been retracted.

Ross said, however, the letters appear to be proof that the postal service is just going through the motions by holding public hearings and plans to close post offices no matter what evidence is presented that they deserve to stay open.

According to Ross, the closing letters to Boles, Ozan and Parks were more than a "simple clerical error."

"At best," said Ross in his letter to the Postmaster, "it appears that letters were pre-prepared to notify of closures and the only error was the premature sending of the letters."

In the case of the Gepp Post Office, the Customer Service official in Little Rock promised to call back with further information. Lisa Toliver-Gaye has not called back or responded to followup calls from The News.

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