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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Gepp Post Office closure making news in Washington

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Washington attorney says this posted flyer informing Gepp Post Office customers of an "emergency" closing was inadequate notice to the public.
A Washington D.C. attorney, who represents the public before the Postal Regulatory Commission, is challenging the U.S. Postal Service decision to close the Gepp Post Office under an emergency suspension.

The Gepp Post Office has been on a postal service closure list since last spring, but customers and residents of Gepp have strongly opposed the closure, including filing an appeal with the regulatory commission in August.

"Last week's closing of the post office was not fair or legal," said Kathy Adams.

Adams, along with Mary Rivera and Ethel Morris, have led the community effort to fight the closing to the end.

On Sept. 9, Gepp residents were shocked to find the post office door locked and the door and windows covered with cardboard.

A notice on the door stated there had been an "EMERGENCY SUSPENSION" of service, and post office box customers could pick up their mail in Viola.

After contacting a postal service customer service spokeswoman in Little Rock, The News was informed the post office had been closed because the Officer In Charge, who runs the post office, must take five mandatory days off, and the post office could not find a replacement for her.

Gepp residents say Karen Shrable, the Officer in Charge, has frequently taken days off without incident, and it is wrong for the post office to declare an "emergency suspension," to close the post office when an appeal is pending.

"Two different ladies have filled in for Karen in the past," said Adams. "We filed our appeal and were informed it had been received and the process (to consider the appeal) takes 120 days. So we were shocked when the post office was closed."

Gepp residents have an ally in Patricia Gallagher, a Public Representative, who took their complaint to the Postal Regulatory Commission.

In a motion filed Sept. 12, Gallagher questions the legality of the closing of the Gepp Post Office, and indicates the Gepp case has national implications.

"The emergency suspension of the Gepp Post office...has several implications in terms of the interests of the general public in post office appeals," Gallagher writes in her motion.

Gallagher explains that the emergency closing of a post office is normally related to a natural disaster or safety issue.

"The emergency suspension (at Gepp) was not due to fire, flood or some other unexpected problem," the motion states.

Gallagher questions whether a post office problem providing a replacement worker is a true emergency, and whether it can be used as grounds to shut down a post office, before the appeal process is completed.

"It is my understanding that the Postal Service, for some time, has followed the practice of keeping post offices open during the appeal process," Gallagher says in her motion for relief for Gepp Post Office patrons.

Gallagher also asserts that residents should have received letters or other notification regarding the closing, instead of "a terse notice on the building door," with no explanation of when or whether the post office will re-open.

Gallagher asks that the regulatory commission investigate the questionable post office closing, and insure that the postal service follows the law.

"The emergency suspension of the Gepp Post Office has shaken the patrons who have been participating in the appeal process in good faith. Understandably, some view the emergency suspension as a bureaucratic subterfuge and end-run around the statute. They fear that the closing is a fait accompli, and question whether further participation in the process would be a farce," Gallagher says in the conclusion of her motion.

Karen Adams admits she wonders whether she is wasting her time, but said she has decided not to give up.

"I filed the appeal and I hate to back down," said Adams.

In her motion, Gallagher praises Gepp citizens for their efforts to contact her and seek to protect their rights, and the rights of other citizens who oppose post office closures.

"On behalf of the patrons of the Gepp Post office - and of patrons of post offices that may be similarly affected in the future - I respectfully request that the Commission exercise its good offices to provide the Postal Service with the opportunity to put the Gepp Post Office patron's fears to rest and to provide appropriate equitable relief," Gallagher concludes.

Despite questions about the legality of the action, the Gepp Post Office remains closed, and customers are either making a 14 to 20 mile round trip to get their mail in Viola, or putting up mail boxes to obtain home delivery.

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