Fight strengthens against post office closure

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks City Commissioner Len Vohs, addresses those in attendance Thursday at the Town Hall meeting about the closing of the Gidding Street post office at the Clovis-Carver Public Library.

By Sharna Johnson

Their ranks have tripled from just a week ago and now they are planning to take the fight to Washington.

About three dozen citizens and community leaders met at the Clovis-Carver Library’s North Annex on Thursday to plan ways to keep the Gidding Street post office open.

Chase Gentry, executive director of the Clovis Industrial Development Corp., said he’s running into resistance from the U.S Postal Service.

Gentry said he’s getting different stories from the postal service while trying to obtain a copy of a cost-savings analysis the agency said it conducted.

The postal service said earlier the analysis prompted a proposal to close the downtown post office and move all operations to West 21st Street.

Gentry said he’s been told anything from “the analysis didn’t exist” to “it wasn’t public record.” He added that lack of information was a problem and if numbers were made public, cost savings might not be what the postal service claims.

“The other day they didn’t want the answer; they didn’t ask the question,” Gentry said, referring to a recent postal service open house on the subject. “There’s a tone of, ‘We’re going to do what we’re going to do.’” said Gentry.

A postal service spokesperson contacted Thursday afternoon said the cost analysis won’t be released.

“We do not release proprietary information concerning internal studies or information regarding real estate transactions as provided in our privacy guidelines,” said Barbara Wood, an Albuquerque-based customer relations coordinator.

However, Wood said anyone interested can submit a request for information by following guidelines posted on the USPS Web site.

Clovis and Curry County have adopted resolutions opposing closure. Additionally, U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan sent representatives to the meeting, who pledged support to fight the closure.

City Manager Joe Thomas said the postal service was made aware of the meeting and invited to attend, but did not respond.

Wood said there was a reason.

“We were there last week and we felt like we answered all the questions we had to answer. We didn’t feel like a week later we had any new information,” said Wood.

“I think (the postal service’s) attitude has been horrible, I think it stinks,” Raymond Mondragon, government relations director for ENMR Plateau, said.

Mondragon suggested the community bypass regional and state postal administration. He said the group should assemble a delegation to go to Washington D.C. and discuss the issue with the postal service’s top brass.

“I think we ought to keep knocking at the top doors,” he said.

Wood said the postal service has received congressional inquiries and is working to respond. She said the postal service is still circulating surveys.

Wood also said no final decision will be made until surveys are collected and reviewed.

Wood added, however, the Gidding Street building will be listed for sale in the next couple of weeks.

“If we get an offer, that doesn’t mean for sure we’re going to sell,” Wood said. “Once we have a potential buyer, we will have more definitive information that we will communicate to the public.”

Clovis is unique at the moment, Wood said.

“Clovis is the only one right now that is what we consider under-utilized,” she said, describing the Gidding post office as, “that huge building that we have two clerks in.”

Keith Kjelstrom, a New Mexico MainStreet Program associate, said years ago he experienced similar issues in California where he worked with another MainStreet program. He said local leaders would do best to familiarize themselves with the rules and procedures governing the postal service in addition to networking and garnering support from lawmakers and top echelon leaders.

City Commissioner Len Vohs vowed a task force would be created to study the issue and develop a course of action.

“The post office needs to learn to run a business like a business, for the customer,” Vohs said.

“For them not to want to be here to hear from their customers is beyond me.”