By Kim Walter
FORT VALLEY -- Residents of Fort Valley gathered Wednesday afternoon to learn the potential fate of their community post office.
Representatives from the Northern Virginia district of the U.S. Postal Service discussed results of a survey that was sent to 742 residents. The survey asked which outcome they would prefer for the long-standing facility.
Out of the 224 returned surveys, 88 percent asked for a realignment of hours, as opposed to a delivery option, a village post office or using a nearby community's post office.
Currently, the Fort Valley Post Office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 p.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The proposed hours would be changed to 10:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Dennis Voorhees, the manager of post office operations for the district, explained that the time slot was based on survey results.
"This is what you wanted," he told the crowd of roughly 50 Fort Valley residents.
Those in attendance immediately started asking questions. One woman asked if the person working at the office would have a break to eat or use the restroom, to which Voorhees said they would "certainly be allowed to excuse themselves," but four hours wasn't a long enough time for an actual lunch break.
The question sparked a discussion on whether or not the current post mistress, Teresa Tamkin, was ever consulted about the hours.
"Shouldn't she be taken into consideration," asked one woman. "What if she wants to pursue other employment?"
Tamkin later explained the reasoning behind the 10:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. time slot.
"The mail comes at 11 a.m., so they didn't really see the point in my only being here an hour afterwards," she said. Tamkin has held the position at the post office for 23 years.
"It was very nice to hear people asking about me ... I guess it means they like me, and I'm doing a good job," she said. "But I don't know what I'd do if the post office wasn't here anymore ... this is what I've always done."
Kim Timberlake, the district's marketing manager, explained that over the past few years, the U.S. Postal Service has lost about $15 billion. However, by cutting hours and closing offices at various locations across the country, an estimated half billion could be saved.
"You people are spending a dollar to save a dime," yelled out one resident.
"This is a nationwide thing," Voorhees said. "At least it's not closing."
John Bradburne, who owns a consulting business in Fort Valley, spoke up.
"What all of you need to realize is these decisions were made in D.C.," he said. "These people in front of us did not come up with these things, they just have to deliver the news to us. It came from Washington ... that's where the problem is."
Residents began offering other options for the new daily four-hour operating schedule. One woman suggested that officials take a look at when the peak business hours were for each day, and fit the hours around that time period. Voorhees asked if that might be too complicated to communicate to the community, to which the woman replied, "We learn quick."
Overall, the residents in attendance agreed that having the post office open late -- until 4 p.m. -- at least one day a week would be better than nothing.
"That's a good idea," Vorhees said. He added that he would take the idea to those above him, and see what he could do. "This is something we might be able to work with."
"We're out of the way, and we've secluded ourselves ... but we like it this way," said Grace Maslyn, who lives six miles from the post office and whose house sits about a mile off of Fort Valley Road. "It's time to think out of the box, because right now we're working in the box."
Annabelle Stephens, 80, worked at the Fort Valley Post Office for 40 years, and said she feels it's a staple in the community.
"This place is very important to me ... and I know what it means to everyone else," she said. "We haven't lost interest in this issue."
Voorhees said the new hours would be posted in the lobby of the post office within the next seven days. However, they would not go into effect until the end of February.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org