KEENEVALLEY-Local residents may soon be able to pick up their mail at Keene Central School (KCS), keeping their old zip code of 12943.
Henrietta Jordan is a member of an informal group of three people, including Marcy Neville and David Thomas-Train, which is seeking a replacement for the hamlet post office which was closed last October. The group formed more than a month ago, Jordan said.
"The idea is to replace the former Keene Valley post office with a facility that looks and feels much like the old one," Jordan said.
The current plan is that a "contract postal unit" (CPU) will be placed at KCS. A CPU is a privately operated facility under contract with USPS, Jordan said. It can provide nearly the full range of window services one can find at USPS office. For instance, it might not be able to provide money orders,Jordan said.
KCS Superintendent Cynthia Ford-Johnston said KCS volunteered its space since it seemed there was no other suitable spaces available.
"This is more of a community service," Ford-Johnston said.
The school CPU may offer mailbox key-access 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
Security concerns stemming from having residents at the school were something the group had "thought long and hard about," Jordan said.
The CPU could be constructed so it was entirely cut off from the school, Cynthia Ford Johnston said. One would enter and exit the CPU through a door separate from the school and never encroach on student areas. Only the subcontractor of the CPU might be able to enter these student areas.
Additionally, a security camera at the entrance of the CPU would be installed, Jordan said.
Increased traffic in the parking lot was an additional concern. This would be resolved, Ford-Johnston said, by closing the CPU window during high traffic times, such as when students arrive and depart school. Temporary speed bumps, to ensure people stayed within safe speeds, would also be installed.
The school was expected to submit its CPU application by the June 15 deadline. There were "still a lot of hoops to jump through," Ford-Johnston said, noting that submitting the application did not necessarily mean it would be approved.
Were the application approved, it was her understanding, that the school would then have to enter into a negotiation process with the USPS. She said she had no idea when the school might hear back as to whether the application was to accepted or when the CPU might be up and running at KCS.
In the meantime, Keene Valley residents are still picking up their mail at the Keene post office.
Setting up a CPU
The CPU would be housed at the school's Room 111. Bernard Webb, a local retired architect, has drawn a sketch plan of what the facility would look like.
Keene Community Trust has offered to raise funds for costs incurred in setting up the facility. The operation of the CPU would, in large part, be covered by revenue generated from the sale of postal products, such as stamps and certified mail.
The school is applying to be the CPU contractor. A subcontractor will be responsible for the day-to-day operations.
A number of people have expressed interests in being CPU subcontractors, but Jordan would not yet divulge their names.
"This is not a money-making operation for anybody," Jordan said.
USPS limits revenues paid to the contractor, and in this case, the subcontractor, to 8-12 percent of window sales.
"That's not a lot of money," Jordan said.
The CPU would have no impact on the school budget or taxpayers. All start-up costs would be paid through private fundraising.
The subcontractor would get all the revenues and not pay rent. The school would pay the costs of heating and lighting the space. Thesecosts would not be passed onto the subcontractor.
"I don't know how we would ever calculate that," Ford-Johnston said.
Three options weighed
Jordan's group had been working on three potential solutions to the postal service dilemna.
The first option was to create a CPU at Keene Central School.
The second option was to retrofit a vacant building within the hamlet to be a CPU and include retail space unrelated to mail service. The downside of this plan was that it was very expensive and might have taken a year or two to see to fruition, Jordan said.
The third option was to create a centralized array of key-operated clusterboxes in the town parking lot or another location. It would be covered overhead with a roof of some kind. The downside of this plan was that there would be no window service, so residents would be unable to send packages, Jordan said. It might also be difficult for residents with limited mobility to access the boxes in inclement weather.
Jordan's group held an informational meeting for the community on the issue of mail service on June 2 at KCS. Roughly 27 people attended. The plan of placing the CPU was "far and away the most favored choice," Jordan said. This is because the school option provided an inside space that offered the traditional social interaction found at post offices.
Supervisor pleased with plan
Town Supervisor BillFerebee said he thought the school's plan for the CPU would work and that it was fortunate KCS stepped forward. While his ultimate goal remains to have the USPS themselves return to the hamlet, he was not hopeful this would ever occur.
"We've come to the realization that's not going to happen," Ferebee sad.
Having a centralized location for picking up and sending mail serves as a community hub of sorts.
"It's very important to small towns," Ferebee said.