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Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 11, 2001

Worried protestors picket post office

Carrying handmade signs and speaking to all that would listen, a group of concerned Forest Home residents gathered Monday to voice their protests at the Greenville Post Office.

Holding signs that read "Socio-ecomonic study before changes in local postal services" and "Save our post office in Forest Home, Alabama", a group of more than 20 citizens assembled to peacefully voice their protest against what they felt was a cut-back in service to their community.

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"They (Route Supervisors) want to take the Forest Home rural route to Greenville," said Barbara Davison, a Forest Home resident. "We believe this is the first step toward closing our post office."

Davison said she lives over 21 miles from Greenville, and the closing of the local post office branch would be a terrible inconvenience to her, and many of her neighbors.

"Many older folks have no way to get to town," she said. "It would be like taking their links to the rest of the world away from them."

Another topic that Davison mentioned opposition to is the matter being explored by the U.S. Postal Service of discontinuing Saturday delivery of mail.

"I want my Greenville Advocate delivered to my house on Saturday, not the following Monday," she said. "I want my mail route and post office to remain in Forest Home."

"They started out by taking away our route numbers," said Pecolia Womack, also of Forest Home. "Now they want to take our post office."

When asked why they felt the post office would close, the general consensus of the residents was that they had "heard rumors of the closing."

"There are more than 150 stops on the Greenville Route Three trip, and 238 on ours," said Fred Thompson. "Now they are going to have the same carrier bring both-our 9 o'clock

mail will now be delivered at 11:30."

Thompson, who represented the group of citizens, met with officials at the Greenville Post Office.

"They have assured us our routes will stay the same," he said. "They said they are not closing the post office, but now our boxholders won't have their mail until 11:30-we are concerned that this might be one step closer to closing.

"Another thing that upsets us it that the Greenville Post Office is not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)," Thompson said. "Someone with crutches, canes or a wheelchair would have great difficulty in negotiating these steps."

Those sentiments were echoed by Florence and Edna Hale, both of Forest Home, and both walking with the assistance of a cane.

"It's rough to take these stairs on a cane," said Edna Hale.

"Our addresses have changed-in our opinion it was done arbitrarily," said Thompson. "It caused a lot of confusion. We are just afraid that we will have to change our mailing addresses again."

Thompson said the rural carriers have helped considerably over the years.

"If an address was wrong, the carriers knew us, and could get our mail to us anyway-now mail gets returned to the sender if the address isn't just so.

"This is just depersonalizing' our friendly home mail service," he said.

In response to the citizen concerns, Fred Strickland, postmaster officer in charge (OIC) tried to reassure the residents.

"Nothing will change-the routes will see no difference other than the mail may actually be delivered earlier," Strickland said. "Right now, a contract carrier brings all mail out to the Forest Home Post Office-we are not sure whether this will continue to be the manner in which the mail gets there. Right now, it appears that our rural carrier will probably drop the P.O. Box mail off at the branch-we are not sure about that yet."

"The mail will be cased and carried from Greenville," said Route Supervisor Tim Clark, "But the post office in Forest Home is not closing."

"It is extremely difficult to close a post office," said Strickland. "That was never even a consideration."

Although Thompson held copies of letters sent in reply to Senators Sessions and Everett from Post Office officials, he still remains skeptical.

"It will remain to be seen, just exactly what happens," he said.