USPS opens mobile unit in Fishers Hill

^ Posted Aug. 9

By Kim Walter --

The United States Postal Service opened a mobile unit this week to serve as Fishers Hill's temporary post office, after the original location's lease was terminated.

Fishers Hill's post office was housed in Ritenour's Grocery on Battlefield Road, but post master Ray F. Ritenour Jr. retired effective July 31, according to Dennis Vorhees, Virginia's manager of post office operations.

The post office was in danger of seeing decreased hours, and possibly closing all together, due to declining revenue.

"Mr. Ritenour retired, and we were notified the lease would be terminated, so we brought in the mobile unit a few days ago," Vorhees said Thursday. The facility is parked in a parking lot close to the old location, and the hours are the same as they were before: Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. There is one staff member, provided by the Postal Service, Vorhees said.

"This is temporary," he added. Fishers Hill residents can expect to see questionnaires in the mail in early September, Vorhees said. The surveys will present different options for the community, and members can convey their preference, and any other comments they have on the situation.

From there, Vorhees said a feedback meeting will take place, and within a couple months he hopes to have a firm decision on the future of a post office in Fishers Hill.

"We'll follow standard procedures with the public," he said.

The mobile unit allows individuals to send mail and packages, and also purchase some shipping supplies. However, no mail can be received at the facility, and only cash is accepted.

William Erbach owns the property that the mobile unit parks on, and his home at 2900 Battlefield Road is close by. Erbach said he paid for a mailbox inside the post office when it was still in Ritenour's Grocery, so now he has one outside the building. The rate will remain the same through the end of the year, but after that, rates will increase annually, Erbach said.

His other option would be getting a mailbox for his home address, but Erbach said that would require notifying "everyone who has ever put my address down."

"I offered the Postal Service a space in the mill, and they came and looked, and I've heard nothing at all about that since," he said. Erbach mentioned that there was talk of starting a "village post office," but in order to move forward with that, the post office would have to be connected to some kind of business.

"But there's no other business in Fishers Hill," he said.

Erbach said he's afraid that sooner rather than later, the community's post office will no longer be in existence.

"My desire is to keep the post office here, to see it remade. It adds a sense of identity to a community when you have your own post office," he said. "I think USPS will talk, and stall, then eventually everything will go away. USPS is playing both ends against the middle, and we're going to be the losers."

Regardless of his predictions for the future, Erbach still plans to fill out the survey and attend any meeting on the topic.

"I would love to have even a two hour store here, that is my dream," he said. "But I'm realistic enough to know that we will lose our post office."

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