EAST DIXFIELD — Eighteen East Dixfield Post Office boxholders who attended a meeting there late Tuesday afternoon learned they didn’t have any say in the U.S. Postal Service’s decision to reduce the office’s daily hours to four.

That was despite the postal service’s statement on a survey sent last month to 119 boxholders and a handout at Tuesday’s meeting stating that a final decision wouldn’t be made before taking all information into account.

Of 119 surveys sent, 56 were returned, with 89 percent (50 surveys) seeking a realignment of hours. The handout said that after taking that into account, along with postal service operational needs, the retail hours would be reduced.

Many speculated loudly that the realignment of retail hours was merely a prelude to closing the office completely in the future and forcing boxholders to get their mail in Dixfield or Wilton.

They told USPS representative James H. Thornton Jr., the postmaster in the Portland Post Office, that nobody present was happy with the service’s decision.

Thornton said the new hours will be posted on the post office’s front door, but won’t take effect until Jan. 2015 or possibly later. Before any changes can be made, a notice must be posted for 30 days, he said.

Thornton told boxholders the new hours for the retail office where people can buy stamps and mail packages will be 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. daily, Monday through Friday. From 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., the service office will be closed, but boxholders can still get their mail.

“People are usually not happy with the hours,” Thornton said.

“Who would be?” said Rodney Hall, boxholder and businessman. “Who would be happy with those hours? Are the workers happy with them?”

Thornton said one problem with the new hours is if the mail delivery truck doesn’t arrive until 9:30 or 10 a.m., boxholders won’t be able to get their mail until the office worker returns at 2:30 p.m. to sort it into the boxes.

“You said that the decision on the hours has already been made?” asked Richard A. Pickett, resident of East Dixfield and Dixfield’s police chief. “The only reason I ask that is on the paperwork that was given out, it says, ‘We will take into account all information received at this meeting before making a final decision.’ What does that mean?”

“When I leave here,” Thornton said, “I’m going to put down that basically every citizen here was unhappy with the proposed hours. And whether they will listen or not, I don’t know.”

Thornton said Saturday’s service window hours won’t change as a result of the service’s Post Office Structure Plan to reduce the East Dixfield Post Office’s retail hours.

“If you lose your postmaster and you have temporary help, and you lose your temporary help, then do you have another game plan how this is going to work?” Hall asked. “When someone decides not to show up because of an illness, will they run someone up from Portland to open it at 7:30?”

Thornton said they have resources at nearby post offices to use if the employee running the service window doesn’t show up for work.

“Is there an appeals process?” resident Carolyn Smith asked.

“I’ll write down your comments, but you can always ask your Congressman or Senator for help,” Thornton said.

Resident Stephanie Smith said East Dixfield is part of Wilton and Dixfield.

“Instead of penalizing us, why can’t one of the smaller offices get consolidated?” Stephanie Smith asked of East Wilton and Dryden post offices.

Pickett told Thornton everyone present understood why the changes have to happen.

“But what the issue is for us in this community here is to lose ours — and a post office is bad enough — but you’re saying there’s no intent to close the office?” Pickett asked. “Because the people here really believe this is the first step to closing the office, and they just don’t know where they’re going to go from here.”

“In order to stay in business, we have to make some cuts,” Thornton said.

Boxholders also learned that the revenue that a post office takes in goes to the town post office. So because East Dixfield Post Office is located in Wilton, its revenue goes to the Wilton post office instead of the Dixfield post office. Route 2 splits the towns in East Dixfield.

Pickett and others spoke highly of the East Dixfield Post Office and its postmaster, Joanne Karkos, who will lose her job in January when the postal service replaces her with a relief person.

After the meeting, Thornton said Hanover residents were happy when the postal service reduced their window hours. He will have similar meetings with boxholders of post offices in Andover and East Andover on Wednesday and next week with boxholders of post offices in Weld, Canton and Sumner.

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