Compiled from reports by Carol Hansen & John Isley
Congressman Bill Owens, supporter of keeping the 24 post offices in his 23rd Congressional district open, arrived in Woodgate on Wednesday, June 29 to meet with constiuents opposed to the closing of their postal facility.
Owens said that, to date, he has the support of 160 congressman for House Bill HR 1351-the USPS Pension Obligation Recalculation Reform Act of 2011, a bill that would recover $6.9 billion in overpayments to postal pensions.
Woodgate Citizens Committee Chairman John Isley informed Owens at the opening of the Town Hall Meeting that Woodgate is under a time line and requested support of an “immediate moratorium” on office closings until Congress can act.
Owens will introduce the moratorium and provide a list of congressman not yet committed to the House Bill so they can be lobbied by the Citizens Committee.
Owens was presented a copy of the petition containing 693 signatures of postal customers opposing the Woodgate closing.
Citizens Committee member Walt Paprock also provided Owens with letters signed by the 42 business owners and 10 non-profit community organizations within the Woodgate postal service area.
Paprock said the 42 businesses employ a total of 115 people. Each one is a “mom and pop” owner-operated enterprise with an average staff of 2.7 persons.
Paprock added that three summer youth camps employ over one hundred people and the Woodgate Post Office serves the needs of over 3,000 youth campers each year.
New York State Assembly-woman Claudia Tenney was also present and told the Citizens Committee that as an attorney, she would represent the group before the Postal Regulatory Commission in Washington when Woodgate files an appeal to the closing.
Tenney is the former owner of the Oneida-Madison Pennysaver newspaper group and has testified before the Commission in the past.
Town of Forestport Supervisor William Hasenauer explained to Congressman Owens that the Woodgate Post Office has operated since 1878, survived two World Wars, and the Great Depression.
“The Woodgate Post Office has served its citizens by Pony Express, by train, and by car through rain, sleet, snow and the dark of night. With all that in mind, the government has been able to provide the necessary services here.
“The United States government has taken our people to serve the country, and we have paid into our country by way of taxes. Now, the United States Post Office wants to take our heritage away. We would appreciate that you keep our heritage here as long as you possibly can,” he said.
Hasenauer added that the Woodgate closing would leave a 25-mile vacuum between post offices.
Prior to Wednesday’s gathering the Postal Service informed the Woodgate Citizens Committee that they were not allowed on postal property, and the news media was not allowed within the postal facility.
Instead, Congressman Owens was greeted in front of the Woodgate Library by residents, including two on horseback in emulation of the Pony Express, before moving to the Woodgate Community Hall on Bear Creek Road for the Town Hall Meeting.
The Citizens Committee had received a letter Wednesday morning from Jane Wolfgang, Albany District Office Optimization Coordinator, verifying that she had received their petition containing 693 names, and that the petition had been added to the official record.
The letter to the Committee stated that “the Postal Service of the future will be smaller, leaner and more competitive, but will continue to drive commerce, service communities and deliver value.”
During the meeting, Isley cited the 2013 and 2020 visions document of the Postal Service.
“While the Postal Service, at this time, wishes to close post offices and move to rural carriers, the vision documents call for stopping rural carrier service and operating services by the internet and cluster units within convenience stores,” he said.
Congressman Owens told the group he would try to obtain cost comparisons on the income of the Woodgate Post Office vs. rural carrier costs which brings in no income.
However, he noted that sometimes his office is stonewalled on information as much as the Citizens Committee has been in their requests to receive the actual financial data related to the Woodgate Post Office.
“We need to be able to show how important these facilities are in these communities and throughout my district. And I assure you we will do everything we can to assist you in that process,” Congressman Owens said.