February 23, 2011 Edition

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Changes could be
coming to Hoxie PO

Sherri Sparks (left) and Paige VanBrook, both of the Lawrence County Office of Emergency Management and Lawrence County Communications Center, stop traffic as they collect Make-A-Wish donations in Walnut Ridge on Friday.
TD Photos ~ Gretchen Hunt
Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

The Hoxie Post Office may become a postal station within the next two-to-six months when the United State Postal Service concludes their analysis.

"We are looking at reclassification at this time," said Patti Robinson, Arkansas district manager of marketing, who led a meeting with Hoxie residents on Thursday at the Hoxie Service Center. "We gather and provide information during the process of looking at reclassification. We are undertaking a study of the situation here in Hoxie."

The meeting is one of the first steps in the process. A postal customer questionnaire had been mailed to residents to fill out and return, and more were handed out at the meeting.

Robinson told the attendees that if Hoxie is reclassified, it would serve as a station of the Walnut Ridge Post Office. The two ladies who deliver mail would start their day in Walnut Ridge, and residents would have the same postal carriers. Bridget Lamb, who serves as officer in charge at Hoxie, would still take care of the post office boxes and customers at the Hoxie site. Administrative responsibilities would be under the management of the Walnut Ridge Post Office.

"The US Postal Service lost $20 billion in the last years," Robinson said. "I can't tell you that Hoxie will have a post office five years from now, and I can't tell you we'll have a postal service in five years.

"By law we have to prefund employee retirement and would have been in the black if we weren't required to do that."

Hoxie has no postmaster right now. Former postmaster Jessalee Bellah transferred to Maynard in January of 2008, and Bridget Lamb has been serving as officer in charge for the past 15 months. Lamb is also the postmaster at Reyno.

"There is no postmaster here since Bellah transferred, and if I can cut out that position without costing anyone a job, that saves us money," said Robinson. "Our goal is to offer our customers the same services for less money and not have to see employees lose their jobs."

Robinson said that she has worked for the postal system for 27 years and wants to do everything she can to keep postal jobs.

She added that the Postal Service has cut a lot of jobs already by not replacing employees who retire. She also said that they receive no government dollars but are funded by services and sales.

"Salaries and benefits are our biggest cost," Robinson said. "Our first class mail has dropped tremendously with people using the Internet to pay bills and correspond with each other."

Unlike the Walnut Ridge Post Office who owns their building, the building housing the Hoxie Post Office has a brand new five-year lease with a private individual who owns it. He will be asked to make needed repairs on the post office parking lot as requested by Hoxie citizens.

"In the worst case scenario, if the Hoxie Post Office has to close at the end of the next five years, post office boxes would be moved to the Walnut Ridge branch with no change to your mailing address or zip code," Robinson said. "Those receiving mail by mail carriers would receive the same service they always have unless they receive a package too big for their box or a letter that has to be signed for. They would have to drive to the Walnut Ridge Post Office to take care of those."

Residents were informed that the Postal Service has asked Congress to cut deliveries down to five days a week and requested that they not be made to prefund employee retirement. They have also cut out sponsorship of the Olympics.

Post offices in Alicia and Peach Orchard, along with others throughout the state, are facing a possibility of being closed down entirely.

U.S. Postal employees Jackie M. Stubitsch, address management systems manager in Little Rock, and John R. Confer II, Post Office operations manager in Jonesboro, were also at the meeting and answered questions.

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