Issues at Shell Knob Post Office continue

Thursday, November 13, 2008

After the removal of the veterans Wall of Honor at the Shell Knob Post Office drew complaints, the U.S. Postal Service hosted a special ceremony to dedicate a new Wall of Honor display at the southern Barry County post office.

Dave Atkinson, Shell Knob VFW Post 2033 commander, organized the dedication ceremony, which was held on Nov. 7. The event featured several community members and U.S. Postal Service officials, according to Richard Watkins, U.S. Postal Service public affairs and communications.

"The honored guests were women whose husbands were veterans," said Watkins. "They spoke on behalf of veterans and helped unveil the new wall."

Atkinson's remarks included his recollections of his service in Vietnam and how military personnel were treated when they returned to the United States after serving in the Vietnam War. He also spoke about his commitment to recognizing local veterans, said Watkins.

"Postmaster Tina Strauch talked about the roll of veterans in the postal service," said Watkins. "Around 40 percent of the employees who work in postal service are veterans. That is more than 200,000 individuals. We are quite familiar with co-workers who served in the military."

Atkinson organized the photos and researched background information for all of the individuals who are featured on the Wall of Honor. Other photos will be featured on the wall on a rotating basis, said Watkins. Individuals interested in submitting a photo for the Wall should contact Atkinson at 417-858-2150.

"The Wall of Honor being up is great," said Mary Abel-Lavely. "It's the definite direction that (Strauch's) supervisors have mandated, and she gave Dave the key to maintain it."

The new Wall of Honor at the Shell Knob Post Office replaces a make-shift honorary display that local residents previously recognized as a Wall of Honor.

"The photos were originally placed on a slat wall that has grooved horizontal bars, which is usually used to display products like priority mail envelopes and other items," said Watkins. "There is not a lot of room on the wall and it needs to be used for that purpose."

In order to use the slat wall to display items, Strauch proposed moving the photos to the customer service lobby.

"Some community members thought it was an arbitrary move," said Watkins. "That was not the point at all. We would never think about slighting military veterans. The postmaster is responsible for increasing revenue and one of the ways to do that is to display products on the slat wall."

The decision to move the Wall of Honor from its original location was made by district officials, who researched internal regulations and decided to relocate the Wall of Honor to the post office lobby, said Watkins.

"Rules and regulations need to be followed, but we got together and said, 'You know what? As a good faith effort, we will create a display place of prominence instead of a make-shift display as was used in the past,'" said Watkins. "We are proud of the way that it turned out and appreciate that the VFW took the time to create the display and do the background research. The community seems to have welcomed the new display with open arms."

Although local residents are pleased with the new Wall of Honor, they continue to voice other complaints against Strauch. These allegations include: refusal to accept donations for future care package mailings; lost revenues; refusal to deliver mail to local residents; withholding packages; excessive charges for postal services; and distributing inaccurate pricing information.

Residents have also complained that they are forced to wait for the mail to be distributed to post office boxes because it is sorted at inconsistent times.

"The main problems are her unfriendliness, her unprofessionalism and her just plain rudeness to her customers," said Jeannie Jones, editor of the Shell Knob Rattler. "She is driving people from Shell Knob to other post offices to do their mailings. We are not trying to get her fired; we're just wanting her transferred away from here."

On Monday, residents began collecting signatures on a "transfer the postmaster" petition that states that Strauch fails to fulfill postal services as proclaimed by the US Postal Service, gives misleading and incorrect information on postal regulations governing newspaper mailings, curses and uses abusive name-calling and refuses to listen to customer complaints. So far, around 50 signatures have been collected.

"We take all customer service issues very seriously," said Watkins. "Our responsibility is to the customer. Some customers might not be aware of all of the rules and regulations, and it falls on us to ensure the rules are clear and that we help the customers understand those rules.

"The Postal Service does not operate a strict democracy; and therefore, it doesn't matter whether there are five or 500 names on a petition," said Watkins. "As long as the postmaster is following the rules and regulations and doing her job, she has our full support."

Strauch has also received support from Benny Cassaw, regional operations manager, and several postmasters from other local post offices, said Watkins.

"We think the Wall of Honor is a big step in the right direction and hope that the community looks at what Tina and her staff have done," said Watkins. "She is doing a great job."

According to Watkins, Cassaw is responsible for ensuring all postmasters in his region follow all U. S. Postal Service rules and regulations. Cassaw serves between 75 and 100 post offices.

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