After the June 11th demonstration in front of the Greene Street post office, some Germantown residents and business owners met with U.S. Sen. Bob Casey’s staff to discuss the ongoing postal service issues at the Greene Street post office. The meeting happened at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, June 21, with 19 attendees. While Casey was not present, staffers Kennedy O’Dell and Robert Bielunas were present to listen to and record the concerns of Germantown residents.
Leading the meeting were Tim Styer, the organizer of the June 11 demonstration, and Ann Doley, a longtime resident of Germantown and Friends for the Restoration of the Germantown YWCA organizer. Styer opened the meeting by explaining the purpose of allowing some residents to share their testimonies with Casey’s office, along with data from a survey administered to Germantown residents online about the postal problems.
Styer, Doley, and a few other residents shared some of their experiences with the Greene Street Post Office. Common problems were non-delivery, non-communication such as not answering the phone, missing checks which resulted in monetary loss for businesses and nonprofits, and concerns for residents who receive their medication via mail.
Kaitlin Orner, the owner of Pomelo, expressed that within the last year, she had more than five checks totaling about $10,000 go missing. And while she recovered a few of them, she says that paying fees and the inability to recover some of the checks cost her business $5,000. Orner says that while the loss of money is an enormous issue, the bigger problem is the lack of communication and accountability on the post office’s behalf. She shared with the group that she has attempted to reach the post office by phone over 150 times and only once have they answered, compared to calling other nearby post offices and receiving an answer the first time for at least half of them.
Orner also presented another issue for residents — delinquent bills. She says that because she doesn’t receive mail regularly when she did receive a bill, it was a shut-off notice. Amanda Staples of the Germantown Kitchen Garden echoed many of Orner’s statements by saying she has also suffered financial losses due to delayed or undelivered mail. She said carriers left her mail 30 feet away from her property, in a spot where it wasn’t protected from the rain. Her mortgage bill got damaged in the process.
Another resident, Rosalind McKelvey, has been working to shed light on the post office issues for years. She is part of the Friends of the Greene Street Post Office group, which has attempted to alleviate some of these problems. She shared that a neighbor ended up incarcerated because they didn’t receive mail. Many people in the meeting were shocked to hear this instance.
The meeting went by fast as a few attendees added their voices to an already long list of issues. It has been an ongoing issue for years, which came to be the group consensus as each attendee gave their testimony. Representatives from Germantown United CDC and SoLo Germantown Civic Association RCO said that residents had contacted them about the post office for years now.
Before handing the floor over to O’Dell and Bielunas, Styer and Doley expressed three significant asks from the community. They include: (1) cleaning up the post office, as it is unorganized and dirty, (2) having a better organizational and internal system that will allow residents to communicate with them more effectively, and (3) a community town hall meeting with Sen. Casey, the postmaster, and the general manager of the Greene Street post office in attendance.
With only three minutes left in the meeting. O’Dell and Bielunas gave little feedback by sharing that many of these concerns have been raised at their office. They mentioned that they have inquired both the local Greene Street post office and the Philadelphia region office and have only gotten responses highlighting the lack of “manpower” at the office. They said they are in contact with the national level office in Washington, D.C., but did not provide any details about their response. They plan to reach out to U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans’ office, which has also received many complaints, in hopes of coming together to figure out some solutions to this problem.
They told the attendees that while they don’t have any action steps, they will take what they have learned and recorded and begin crafting possible solutions. The two made it clear that they understood the issue’s magnitude and wanted to be as effective as possible. O’Dell and Bielunas said organizers would receive a follow-up in writing in the coming weeks.
Ann Doley closed the meeting by urging Casey’s staff to remember that “it’s not just about mail,” but people’s “physical health, money, mental health” and the neighborhood’s infrastructure are at stake.