Local leaders upset over postal meeting

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Chase Gentry, executive director of the Clovis Industrial Development Corp. and Ernie Kos, right, director of the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce, speak with Barbara Wood from the U.S. Postal Service about closure of the Gidding Street office.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

About a dozen people voiced concerns and frustration during an open house Thursday at the Gidding Street post office.

At 9 a.m. Thursday, six postal employees — several from Albuquerque — started a two-hour open house on the proposed closing of the post office.

Those attending weren’t happy with the U.S. Postal Service’s approach to the meeting.

Clovis native Gloria Wicker told postal representatives the Gidding Street office is convenient, has nostalgic value and is important to the community.

Describing herself as “irate”, Wicker was one of many who chided the postal service for not holding an open forum so the issue could be discussed instead of having people fill out forms to mailed.

“This is the biggest farce that I’ve ever attended in my life. There’s no one here from the U.S. Postal Service, they’re all from Albuquerque… (And) We should be in a group where we should have a forum and talk this out,” she said.

“I insist that one of these (postal) people walk that eight miles (to the other post office). There are a world of people (in Clovis) that have no car.”

The postal service is proposing selling the Gidding Street building and consolidating Clovis operations at the post office on West 21st Street, approximately eight miles away.

The postal service says it must consolidate to save money.

“We’re not getting the volume we used to. It would be more cost effective for us to sell this (building) and to continue to lease (the one on 21st Street),” said Barbara Wood, customer relations coordinator for the postal service’s Albuquerque district.

City and county leaders attending the meeting said the move is short-sighted with growth at Cannon on the horizon.

County leaders on hand noted the top floor was recently renovated by the county at a cost of more than $200,000. The renovated area is being leased to the district attorney for $100,000, a significant revenue the post office would lose if the building were sold, they said.

Manager of Customer Relations Margaret Romero said it was not legal to host a forum because the gathering was not structured in compliance with the Open Meetings Act, which requires public notices over a specified period of time.

“We just thought this would be the best way to do it, a more casual format,” Wood said.

“We need to be able to congregate,” County Commissioner Wendell Bostwick said in a raised voice, trying to talk over the chatter as a postal worker tried to separate a crowd gathering in the foyer.

“This is my district and I have a lot of constituents who don’t have a vehicle (to get them to the other post office),” he said.

When reminded the meeting was not a town hall or public forum, Bostwick told a postal worker, “then I am going to just raise my voice so everyone here can hear me.”

City Commissioner Len Vohs pressed postal representatives to address the crowd and respond to questions from the group.

“We live in America where you have a right to gather and to speak your mind,” he said. Vohs added the community had a right to speak to postal leadership directly to express concerns.

“(When you pass the message up the chain of command) it gets lost in translation,” he said. “It gets so watered down that we don’t have a voice.”

Wood said surveys would be evaluated in the next 30 days, “but no definitive dates have decided on if its going to close, or even if it’s going to close at all,” she said.