By HEATHER NELLIS
FORT HUNTER -- Whoops.
During a public meeting here Thursday, a United States Postal Service representative admitted a letter warning termination of mail service in the hamlet was a mistake.
"It's a meeting that should have taken place two years ago," said acting Post Office Operations Manager David Rollins, who admitted to the crowd he didn't see the letter sent to residents Tuesday. "The letter is not accurate. We're not going to change services."
The letter invited residents to the meeting at the fire house, 351 Main St., and roughly 30 people showed to hear why the USPS might leave the community holding the (mail) bag.
"When I read the letter, it didn't even make sense, because to me, it's not even a post office -- it's a kiosk," said resident Maryann Wieszchowski.
The "postal pavilion," as it's formally called, was erected outside the fire house to remedy the loss of the post office, which was located a few blocks down Main Street.
After it was flooded during tropical storms Irene and Lee, the original post office was placed under emergency suspension Sept. 13, 2011. The former facility, considered a total loss, was owned by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which would not renew the lease.
The USPS then constructed the postal pavilion outside the fire house, but in the mean time, residents had to pick up their mail at either the Amsterdam or Tribes Hill post offices.
The letter residents received Tuesday should have been sent at the time of the floods, Rollins said, adding he wasn't in his position at that time.
Rollins said the situation has nothing to do with USPS's nationwide reduction of postal operations in an effort to reduce costs. The service has reported $25 billion worth of losses since 2007, with a 50 percent reduction in first-class mail. Hagaman, Tribes Hill and Fort Johnson post offices have all seen reductions in hours.
"It's completely separate," Rollins said.
When asked why the letter was sent, Rollins said, "too many hands in the pie. It has nothing to do with money."
Though they miss having a post office, most residents seem pleased with the pavilion.
"It's the greatest thing since sliced bread," Wieszchowski said. "We can get our mail whenever we want to. I never want to see that go."
Fort Hunter Fire Chief Tim Haegi recently placed a community news bulletin board outside the fire house, next to the pavilion, and Wieszchowski is grateful. She said it's the closest thing to having a post office again.
"I miss our post office. That was where we found out who died, who was getting married, who had a baby. We knew what was going on in town. But at least now, we've got the bulletin board, so we know a little bit of what's going on around here," Wieszchowski said.
Resident Dorothy Bonnano said she's glad she won't have to change her P.O. box number.
"I wouldn't want to have to go through the trouble of notifying Social Security, and my kids live out of state, and I have friends who live so far away," she said. "It would be like changing your phone number."