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North Hartland Post Office’s Future Unclear

  • Charlene Reynolds of North Hartland, Vt., is the postmaster of the North Hartland Post Office. Reynolds was working at the office on July 9, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Charlene Reynolds of North Hartland, Vt., is the postmaster of the North Hartland Post Office. Reynolds was working at the office on July 9, 2014.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • On July 9, 2014 at the North Hartland Post Office, Diane Strout of North Hartland, Vt., was not happy about the proposed changes to the hours at the post office. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    On July 9, 2014 at the North Hartland Post Office, Diane Strout of North Hartland, Vt., was not happy about the proposed changes to the hours at the post office.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Charlene Reynolds of North Hartland, Vt., is the postmaster of the North Hartland Post Office. Reynolds was working at the office on July 9, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • On July 9, 2014 at the North Hartland Post Office, Diane Strout of North Hartland, Vt., was not happy about the proposed changes to the hours at the post office. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

Hartland — The North Hartland post office will soon have to reduce its hours or close altogether, under a plan, known as POST, by the United States Postal Service to save money.

Surveys were sent to North Hartland residents, asking which of four options they preferred: to keep the post office open under reduced hours; to close the office and use roadside mailbox delivery; to contract postal services from a local business; or to consolidate with another post office.

The U.S. Postal Service in recent years has been slashing costs as it has seen a drop in revenue and mail volume. During a July 18 meeting, they will share the survey results and hear from the community.

“Very few communities have chosen to close their post offices, but we like to provide that option,” said Maureen Marion, manager of corporate relations for the USPS in the northeast. “In the case of North Hartland, the amount of work shows that a 4 hour workday of service is appropriate. That’s been determined by the use of the post office over the past several years.

“People will still be able to have access to their post office boxes beyond those hours,” Marion said. “And the Saturday hours will not change at all, so that people who work during the weekday hours can pick mail up on Saturday.”

If North Hartland residents choose to close the doors of their post office, nearby options include the Hartland Four Corners post office on Route 12, the Main Street post office in White River Junction and the Sykes Mountain Avenue post office in Hartford.

The North Hartland post office is currently open from 8:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. But for many residents, keeping the post office open with reduced hours is not a solution — just the lesser of two evils.

“I think it’s terrible,” said Diane Strout, who lives in North Hartland. “Charlene Reynolds (the postmaster) does a lot more than stand at the counter and sort mail. She does a lot for the community. I don’t see how they expect her to get a full time job done in four hours a day.”

Marion said that the postal service industry has changed enormously over the last decade.

“As a customer with a post office box, I might check my mail every day, but I don’t go buy a stamp every day,” Marion said. “People are using their post offices in different ways. We buy stamps at the grocery store, we order online and have packages and goods shipped to us and we pay our bills online in increasing numbers. So all of these types of changes factor into how people use their local post office.”

Reynolds has worked at the North Hartland post office for almost 16 years, and has been the postmaster for 10.

Her duties include sorting mail, filling out paperwork, sending out packages and helping residents apply for passports. But according to Jill Metivier, a North Hartland resident, Reynolds does much more than that.

“The post office is an important central spot in town,” Metivier said. “Besides the obvious postal needs, Charlene keeps us together as a community.”

Barbara Lane owns the building where the post office is located and runs a business next door, EarthStar Pottery.

“The post office is really the only community center in the area,” Lane said. “Charlene keeps cookies and dog biscuits around for if there’s a wait, even though she’s extremely efficient. She’s set up a little library in the atrium where people borrow and donate books.

“She serves as a visitor’s center and gives directions to people who are lost. Kids come in and decorate the post office, and it’s all because of Charlene.”

One Hartland resident, Paulette Smith-Tuttle, thought that the postal service was making a positive change.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Smith-Tuttle said. “The postal service hasn’t failed us yet. This is a good way to save money.”

Marion did acknowledge that reducing hours and closing post offices would impact employment.

“There’s never an easy answer, but there definitely have been efforts to try to help people,” she said, referring to efforts by the postal service to notify USPS workers about job vacancies and providing financial incentives for voluntary retirement.

After the survey and the meeting, the postal service will make a final decision, which will be implemented in January.

“There will be a huge turnout for (Reynolds),” Lane said. “We won’t all fit in the post office.

“We’re tiny as far as population goes, but she’s a huge part of this town.”

The July 18 meeting will take place at the North Hartland Post Office at 4 p.m.

Lauren Bender can be reached at lbender@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.