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LECOMPTON — A U.S. Postal Service official on Friday gave Lecompton the bad news — the town's post office may face reduced operating hours.
Residents of Lecompton weren't happy.
About 75 of them packed the community building at high noon, arguing that growth in the community and the historic background of Lecompton warranted a full-time post office.
But Kevin Billings, post office operations manager for most of eastern Kansas, said that based on workload and revenue, the Lecompton Post Office fell into the category of needing to be open four hours per day on weekdays.
A survey of local residents found that if the hours were reduced, most favored 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturday. Currently, the Lecompton Post Office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and then 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturday.
The proposed reduction would shorten weekday hours from 7 to 4 and Saturday hours would remain the same.
But those attending the meeting didn't want the hours reduced at all, saying that would stifle economic growth and make life more inconvenient.
"The corridor has the potential of developing," said Paul Bahnmaier, president of the Lecompton Historical Society. "I can't imagine you are cutting the hours of any other territorial capital that affected the nation's history," he said. Bahnmaier gave Billings an envelope stuffed with letters of support from political leaders for the Lecompton Post Office.
Lecompton, a town of about 600 northwest of Lawrence, is home to several historic sites and it stormy early days figures prominently in the start of the Civil War.
Billings said he understood the residents' feelings, but that the Postal Service was facing revenue declines of $15 billion this year and had to make adjustments. Computers and other technologies were making people less reliant on the mail, he said.
Initially, the Postal Service had been considering shutting down thousands of post offices nationwide, including 156 in Kansas, but after a public uproar it devised a plan to keep them opened at reduced operations.
But residents were not satisfied.
Elsie Middleton, a Lecompton city council member, said she had requested data under the Freedom of Information Act that the Postal Service used in making its determination and was refused. "They said they were exempt," she said.
Billings said he did not have that information. Lynley Sanford of Lecompton asked, "How soon can we have a town meeting" with someone who could provide that information.
Billings said he would try to connect Lecompton residents with a Postal Service official who could provide those figures.
Many in the audience also criticized the Postal Service for switching two mail carriers, whose routes had originated in Lecompton, to the post office in Perry. They said that made the Lecompton post office seem less useful.
Billings said he would take the suggestions from the residents to higher officials in the Postal Service who will make the final decision on the post office's hours of operation. That could happen within seven days, and Billings said if the hours are changed, the earliest that would take effect would be Jan. 12.