On Oct 14, 21012 the US postal service sent a letter to Camp Meeker residents informing them that their post office is again under study for permanent closure. A local meeting to hear comments is scheduled at the Occidental Post Office on Oct 23 at 5pm.
For unexplained reasons, there has never been local mail delivery in Camp Meeker, an unincorporated village of 350 houses packed into half a square mile. All residents receive free postal boxes from the postal service. The Occidental postmaster states because there is not enough room for all residents of Camp Meeker to have a box at the Occidental post office 1.5 miles away, a certain number of people will receive boxes more than 5 miles away in the town of Monte Rio.
Residents have been fighting closure of the Camp Meeker post office for two years. In 2011 the USPS notified residents that a feasibility study was under way and Tony Carvelli, regional manager of post office operations held meeting for residents in the Camp Meeker parking lot.
In late 2012, the Camp Meeker postmaster retired. No one was hired to replace him and his assistant, local resident Val Larsen, took over the day-to-day operations.
In March of 2013, the postmaster of the Occidental office contacted the Camp Meeker Park and Recreation Department. This is from the subsequent letter that Camp Meeker Park and Rec distributed to residents:
“On March 15, 2013 the Camp Meeker Board was contacted by postal staff from Occidental and informed that the Postal Service wants to install a 4’ x 16’ slab at the trailer site, install post boxes similar to apartment type boxes and close the trailer completely. The postal service has deemed the trailer “unsafe.” The District was informed that stamp purchase and other postal related services required by residents and local businesses will be probably be handled at the Occidental post office. It is thought that most of the outdoor boxes will be too small for parcels and, given that there is no residential delivery in Camp, special services requiring signatures will also require Occidental pickup. It was stated that re-installation of a temporary trailer or permanent facility at the Camp Meeker site could be dependent upon the level of protest from the community.”
Numerous residents called Supervisor Efren Carrillo, Rep Jared Huffman and Tony Carvelli, the regional post office operations manager.
On March 28, 2013 Camp Meeker resident Zoe Keating called the regional manager’s office, and was told by a staffer to Tony Carvelli that the regional office was unaware of the proposed closure of the Camp Meeker post office. The staffer said the postal service was not closing any post offices at this time. Ms Keating described the letter and the staffer asked Ms Keating if she could send them a copy of the letter.
The USPS sent Camp Meeker residents a questionnaire asking them if they preferred reduced hours, moving to a different location, or cluster boxes located in a common area for mail delivery. The USPS never communicated the results of this survey to residents, however the Camp Meeker post office stayed open.
Around this time, Val Larsen was laid off from her position as postal clerk. Jeannie Ramirez, the Occidental postmaster, contested Val’s subsequent California unemployment claim, saying that she quit. Ms Larson won her case and is currently receiving unemployment. Following her departure, another part-time clerk was laid off after she complained of a back injury. Ms Ramirez took over the day-to-day operations of the Camp Meeker office.
In June 2013, the Camp Meeker post office abruptly closed. A handwritten note was posted on the door.
“The post office is closed until further notice due to a sewage leak. This is a Haz Mak situation. All mail to be picked up at the Occidental post office until further notice”
Camp Meeker Park and Recreation board member Tony Tominia called and spoke with various USPS departments in an attempt to find out what had happened and when the Camp Meeker post office would reopen. Occidental postmaster Ramirez reported to Mr Tominia that the closure was due to the creek backing up into the septic tank and overflowing on the floor of the trailer.
On July 3rd, Mr Tominia received a phone call from Ken Boyd, a USPS manager in San Diego. Mr Boyd said that Diana Alverado of the USPS property management office had given him Tony’s name and number.
Ken Boyd stated that he had been told that the creek backed up into the septic tank and then the septic had overflowed onto the postal trailer floor. He said the postal service had hired an assessment crew, although he did not have the name in front of him because it was a crew hired by the Denver office. The crew were to assess two things, the overflow on the floor, and the mold on the trailer that workers at the postal site had complained of respiratory issues from. He stated that he had been told the findings, but the paperwork to finalize the findings were not yet on his desk. He was told that no sewage was on the ground, only water and that the mold on the outside of the trailer could cause no harm to anyone. He expected the paperwork to hit his desk either Friday or Monday, at which time the Camp Meeker post office would be immediately reopened.
Mr Tominia assured Mr Boyd that it was not possible for the creek to back up into the septic tank. The creek is near empty this time of year, he said, and the post office has only a camp toilet and no septic tank at all. Mr Tominia asked Mr Boyd who authorized the closing, and Mr Boyd stated said it was reported to him that human feces and urine were backed up on the ground and so he himself had made the call to close it.
Mr Boyd stated that he was sent pictures of the Camp Meeker trailer and cannot understand how the building fell into such disrepair. He stated he was opening a study on the cost and feasibility of replacing the trailer. The current trailer, in his words, “looks like shit”. He also stated “You can underline this, with exclamation points, the Camp Meeker Post Office will not close.” He said all decisions for closure were made with the postal plan of 2012. Camp Meeker was given reduced hours but will remain open.
On July 5, Tony Tominia met with postmaster Jeannie Ramirez. Ms Ramirez stated that she and regional manager Tony Carvelli would like to get both a new trailer and cluster boxes. She said they they would both be present at the next Camp Meeker board meeting to present their ideas. No matter what, she assured Tony, there would be a new trailer along with whatever other improvements took place. Ms Ramirez mentioned that she had already ordered 20 parcel boxes. She also stated her reason for instigating closure of the post office for safety reasons because in March 2013 her employees started complaining of respiratory issues while working in the trailer. She said this is the real reason for the closure and not the toilet overflow.
Mr Ramirez stated that all of her workers refuse to work in the trailer. Her supervisors told her to hire someone new, but she could not find anyone.
On the same day Mr Tominia spoke with Anne Wolf, the Facilities Environmental Specialist hired by the USPS Colorado office, who inspected the trailer. She stated that her inspection found that the liquid on the floor was water and the mold was harmless. She stated that the trailer should be released to reopen. Mr Tominia told her the post office was not open. He informed her of his previous conversation with postal service manager named Ken Boyd. Mr Boyd informed Mr Tominia that the postal service could not re-open the post office until the study were on his desk. Once the paperwork hit his desk, the post office would immediately open. She asked for Ken’s info and said that she would contact him.
Later that day Anne Wolf called Mr Tominia to say that Ken was off work for today, but that she left a voicemail and sent an email. She would follow up again with both Ken and Tony on July 8 to find a resolution to the post office matter.
A call by Mr Tominia on July 9th led to a man named Victor, who said he was the Manager of Maintenance. Victor stated that structural assessment was all that was needed to get a new trailer.
On July 9th, Mr Tominia received an email from the Occidental postmaster
I did not say I refused to open the Post Office.
I told you that it is being look into.
There is a threat, to people who are sensitive to the exposure of mold.
At this time, that would be all my employees who work in Camp Meeker.
I have left a message for Eddie Masangcay. I am waiting for a return call.
Occidental Postmaster, Jeannie Ramirez”
On July 17, Mr Tomina sent an email to postmaster Ramirez, regional manager Tony Carvelli, Eddie Masangcay,Diana Alverado of USPS property management and Anne Wolf. The email expressed the disappointment of the Camp Meeker Park and Rec that no USPS representative had shown up to the board meeting. He also requested an updated plan and timeline, along with an update to the sign on the post office door so that the public is not mislead. No one responded to Mr Tominia’s email although the “Haz Mak” sign was taken down.
On July 18, Mr Tominia spoke on the phone to postmaster Jeannie Ramirez. She stated that she was meeting with Donnie Dotson that day to do a structural assessment of the trailer.
That same day, Mr Tominia received a call from USPS regional manager Tony Carvelli.
“Tony Carvelli called me. He expressed his displeasure with me sending emails to his superiors stating he had no plan or timeline. I asked him what his plan was. He replied he could not form a plan till he figures out what is wrong with the trailer. I asked him his plan for determining what is wrong with the trailer. He said he was trying to figure that out as well. I told him based on that, I would continue to report that there is no plan and no timeline.”
On July 29, Sebastopol’s Wolf Pack 128, Den 2 Cub Scouts retired the flag at Camp Meeker’s post office since postmaster Ramirez had failed to take it down.
On August 7 a local paper reported on the situation, but still the Camp Meeker post office remained closed.
Subsequent calls by Mr Tominia to USPS officials revealed they were performing a “structural assessment” to the trailer and then, that the structural assessment had concluded there was a hole in the floor. Even more time went by, with the Occidental post master and Jim Wigdel of USPS public communications only stating ‘we are waiting for a decision to be made whether to repair the hole or replace the trailer’.
At no time during any of Mr Tominia’s calls did anyone mention closing the trailer. In fact, all officials repeatedly stated that the post office would remain open and referenced the decision that was made with the Postal Plan of 2012. They pointed out that at that time the decision to remain open had already been made and Camp Meeker would receive reduced hours but nothing else.
The post office has now been closed for 4 months. No one from the postal service has ever attended a Camp Meeker board meeting. No one has reached out to the residents of Camp Meeker or volunteered any information other than that in phone calls instigated by Mr Tominia.
On Oct 14 Camp Meeker residents received a letter from the postal service notifying them that another feasibility study is being conducted to see if permanent closure is possible.
Jim Wigdel, the USPS public relations official stated on a call with Mr Tominia that since this year business has dropped off, and so the Camp Meeker post office is again up for closure feasibility. He did not indicate whether the drop off in business had to do with the post office being closed for 4 months. He also didn’t indicate awareness that a main use of the Camp Meeker Post Office is as a place to pick up mail, not buy stamps, so the USPS definition of “drop off in business” remains unclear.
Residents were notified that if they wish to make comments they should attend a meeting on Oct 23 at the Occidental Post Office, at the rather inconvenient time of 5pm.
Mr Tominia again contacted Ms Ramirez. She stated to Mr Tominia that there would be no room for all residents of Camp Meeker to move their boxes to Occidental and a certain number of people would receive boxes 5 miles away in Monte Rio instead.
Oct 17, 2013 Zoe Keating contacted Val Larsen, the previous Camp Meeker postal clerk and Ms Larsen stated that neither she, nor the other part-time clerk ever suffered or complained of respiratory issues.