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Sugar Hill post office decreasing services


Town puzzled by lack of information


June 06, 2012
SUGAR HILL—The recent cut in hours and services at the town's offices has people annoyed and confused.

"Your post office is your community center," believes Maxine Aldrich, owner of Harman's Cheese & Country Store in Sugar Hill. The post office has been the town's "community center" since before it split from Lisbon in 1962, and on the evening of Friday, May 25 the United States Postal Service (USPS) taped a notice on the door that shocked town residents. A notice the town didn't see coming.

The notice on the door outlined a decrease in hours and services, cutting the time to buy stamps from three hours a day to 30 minutes, effective the next day. Packages can also no longer be mailed. "I think everyone [in the town] was very dismayed [at the decrease and the last minute notice]," commented Town Clerk Lissa Boissonneault. One of the town's concerns is the lack of information being provided on the topic. Selectwoman Margaret Connors commented the town "didn't hear about it [the decreases] ahead of time".

The notice on the post office referred residents to contact Kristen Kiernan, but complaints are that Kiernan is not providing much if any information. She refused to speak with the press, and referred the Littleton Courier to USPS spokesperson Denise Varano. Varano explained that Sugar Hill is classified as a "non personnel unit." A non personnel unit is a post office that does not have a post master or clerk on hand, that services are given by a rural carrier. (In this case the employees from the Lisbon Post Office are the carriers providing these services.) However, the town had no idea their post office was considered non personnel until May 25. "Why'd they give us our own zip code [in 2004] if we're considered 'non personnel'?" questioned selectmen Richard Bielefield. Varano commented that there are no other non personnel post offices in the state.

The services of a non personnel post office are also provided through a contractor, being Aldrich. Aldrich has owned the post office building since the 1990's in an effort to keep the post office running in Sugar Hill. She noted that the $400 monthly rent ($4,800 a year) includes heat, taxes, plowing, shoveling and other amenities. The USPS attributes the reduction in hours and services of the Sugar Hill Post Office to lack of profit. Aldrich counters that with the low rent of the building, plus the amount Harman's Cheese typically spends in shipping: about $14,000 in 2011. Not only that, Aldrich noted that other businesses in the area rely on the post office including Polly's Pancake Parlor, the Sugar Hill Sampler and the town itself.

Recently Boissonneault visited the post office to purchase stamps for the town and was surprised at how low the stock was. "I asked her [the rural carrier] for two rolls of stamps and all she had was one [roll] and loose stamps." "If they close the post office," commented Aldrich, "it looks to me they'll lose money."

Another complaint of residents is the high cost of renting a post office box: $50 for six months. Residents feel they shouldn't have to pay as much when their post office doesn't offer full services.

In response to the action taken by the USPS, residents have written to its Northern New England District in Portland, Maine as well as to congressional representatives, including Congressman Charlie Bass and Senator Jeanne Shaheen. The main concern is information. "We aren't getting any answers [from the USPS] really," said Aldrich.

In a reply e-mail sent to the Littleton Courier from Varano on Monday afternoon, questions were answered vaguely and even substituted with information . According to Bielefield "if [the town] can't reach anybody it's hard to [find answers]." In the town's perspective, each answer brings about a new question, a cycle that residents feel may never end.

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