MORRISTOWN - Thursday's town hall meeting in Morristown generated a lot of questions in regard to the proposed closing of seven area rural post offices.
Unfortunately for those gathered inside Union Local Middle School's auditorium, answers were not quite as forthcoming.
Residents from the seven communities affected by the United States Postal Service's reduction plan - Blaine, Barton, Lafferty, Warnock, Glencoe, Bannock and New Athens - were in attendance.
All three Belmont County commissioners, along with representatives from the offices of Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Bill Johnson, were also seated at the dais.
However, official representation from the USPS was no where to be found.
Commissioner Ginny Favede explained that an invitation was sent to Charles Mulidore, Area Vice President for Ohio and Richard Sargent, the Ohio state rep for the National Association of Postal Supervisors.
In reading a letter from Mulidore, Favede relayed Mulidore's correspondence which stated that although the concerns of the residents are important, no one will be able to come to the meeting.
That left a lot of unanswered questions and concerned citizens at the meeting.
"We cannot answer questions without a representative from the postal service here, but we want to make sure your questions and problems are known, both to the service and your federal and state representatives," Favede told the audience.
Residents in attendance raised the following questions and points:
While not official reps from the USPS were in attendance, there were a few current and ex-postal employees.
Powhatan Point Mayor Mark McVey, a longtime member of the USPS, spoke on an issue he feels is at the heart of the USPS's financial struggles.
He believes a majority of the problems stems from the Postal Accountability Enhancement Act (PAEA) from 2006.
That legislation mandated that the USPS had to fully fund health benefits for its future retirees for the next 75 years. The USPS is the only agency forced to do so.
"We were making money, but that is when the post office started losing money," McVey said. "We're the only company, public or private, that has to pay for the benefits of people who aren't even born yet."
Danielle Nameth from Sen. Sherrod Brown's office touched briefly on the passage of Senate Bill 1789, the 21st Century Postal Service Act of 2012, that Brown voted in favor of.
The bill passed 62-37, but Nameth reminded everyone that there isn't a version of the bill in the House of Representatives currently compatible with the Senate version.
As passed by the Senate, some of the highlights of the bill are:
The USPS reported losses of $3.3B in the first quarter of 2012, which it estimates $3.1B of that amount is attributed to the pre-funding requirement.
"This isn't perfect, it's a compromise," Nameth said. "It's designed to keep the postal service solvent."
Christian Palich, the Deputy District Director for Congressman Bill Johnson, answered a few questions and read a letter from Johnson, who was unable to attend.
Favede also read letters from State Sen. Lou Gentile and State Rep. Jack Cera.
Palich reminded that Rep. Johnson will be in Bellaire at the senior citizens center on Belmont St. for a 10 a.m. town hall meeting and invited everyone to attend to address their concerns.
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