STOCKBRIDGE — The U.S. Postal Service, apparently under pressure and pushback from the town, has given the tiny Glendale neighborhood a reprieve from the agency’s sudden decision, without official explanation, to close the post office serving 86 box holders.
But, the details remain a mystery, with no announcement about the reason for the last-minute change in its “emergency suspension of service” order issued two weeks ago.
“It’s open, but I have not seen any notice, written or otherwise,” Town Administrator Michael Canales said.
“They won’t say why, but they seem to have reversed themselves,” Select Board member Patrick White agreed. “No one seems to be talking.”
But, on Thursday, Postal Service Strategic Communications Specialist Amy Gibbs told The Eagle: “The Glendale Post Office will remain at the current location through the holidays. We continue to seek an alternate location.”
Customers of the post office were notified four days in advance that service was being transferred to the already congested downtown Stockbridge Post Office, starting Nov. 21. Town officials also received informal notification at about the same time.
Amid consternation that the additional customers, added to the 1,000-plus residents who regularly pick up their mail at the facility just off Main Street, would make pandemic social distancing more challenging, the Stockbridge Board of Health held an emergency meeting Nov. 18.
“A planned imminent closure of the Glendale Post Office would be counterproductive to the board’s, and everyone else’s, efforts to diminish propagation of the coronavirus,” said Dr. Charles Kenny, board chairman.
On Wednesday, Kenny confirmed that the transfer of the ZIP code 01229 mail service had been put on hold.
“The Board of Health is pleased that the decision has been rescinded,” he told The Eagle. “We have no explicit explanation for the change of plans. I presume the decision to close the Glendale Post Office was reversed once the involved parties became aware of the potential danger to the community welfare.”
Stockbridge Postmaster Roderick Drees said he had no information to share about the status of the Glendale facility.
The board had asked town counsel to seek action to delay the closure until after the coronavirus epidemic had subsided, Kenny explained. The town’s state lawmakers, Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, and state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, also were asked to intervene, along with U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, and U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey.
The planned shutdown had been caused by a breakdown in lease negotiations with the owner of the Glendale Road building housing the facility, according to a postal official who declined to be identified, as well as an aide to Neal.
The Glendale village had been served by a neighborhood post office since 1851. Most of Stockbridge does not get home delivery, except for a northwest sliver of the town along Route 183 in the Interlaken neighborhood, which can arrange for rural free delivery from the West Stockbridge Post Office.
Because the change in service was classified as an emergency suspension, normal procedures for post office closings, such as 60 days’ advance notice for public comment, didn’t apply, Neal’s aide pointed out.
“We are very concerned about how sudden the closure of the Glendale [post office] is happening,” Canales had said after word spread about the planned suspension. “At a time when we are asking people to spread out due to COVID-19, we are suddenly adding 100 post office boxes to Main Street, creating more traffic. The quick closure does not allow for any public input, or transparency in why this is happening.”
Select Board member Roxanne McCaffrey also expressed concern about resulting potential congestion at the Elm Street office.
“There is no additional room for expansion within the building,” she told The Eagle. “With social distancing, there is already not much space for a window service line.”
The Glendale office is housed in a former private residence. The owner of the property, John A. Miller Jr., has not returned calls for comment.