Downtown post office hours to be longer

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 20, 2000

Parker Hall mails a package while 13 people wait in line behind him Tuesday morning at the Crawford Street Post Office. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

Post office hours that were slashed in October at Vicksburg’s downtown branch will be extended again for a 30-day trial period, officials said Wednesday morning.

“We’re going back to 1:30, and we’re going to monitor it,” said Gerald Pate, manager of postal operations for Central Mississippi. “If it’s justified, we’re going to keep it open.”

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In October, the U.S. Postal Service cut two and a half hours from the window hours at its Crawford Street facility that had served generations of Vicksburg residents as the main postal facility here. Where the customer service window was open from 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., since Oct. 2 it has opened at 9 a.m. and closed at 12:30 p.m.

Window hours on Pemberton Boulevard, now the city’s main postal facility, are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. The Crawford Street branch’s windows are not open on Saturdays.

During the 30 days, officials will keep tabs on how many customers use the downtown post office, and how many take advantage of the extra hour, Pate said.

The window hours were scaled back in October because the demand didn’t warrant it, he said, but an outcry in the community has prompted a second look.

There are no plans to close the downtown station, Pate said.

“That’s not going to happen never,” he said.

It hasn’t yet been determined exactly when the new hours will start, Pate said, but it will likely be next week.

Faced with interminable lines to mail armloads of Christmas packages, Vicksburg customers were growing especially frustrated with the reduced hours this week.

One woman showed up at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, gift-wrapped package in hand, hoping to avoid the congestion at Pemberton Post Office near the mall. No such luck.

“I went there (Pemberton) yesterday, and they were lined up to the door,” said a visibly exasperated Cindy Muirhead. “I thought, no problem, I’ll just swing by the downtown post office in the morning, but I get here and they’re closed.”

A few hours later, the line stretched almost to the door.

“This is ridiculous,” Larry Inman said Tuesday morning, facing the prospect of a lengthy wait to mail the packages he was juggling. “Vicksburg is a pretty good-sized area to just have three hours of postal service.”

To Jimmy Heidel, director of the Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce, it’s more than ridiculous it’s bad for business.

“What we’re trying to do downtown is bring business back, and cutting us off at 12:30 is hurting what we’re trying to do,” Heidel said.

The convenience of postal service can be a factor for businesses interested in locating downtown, he said.

Mississippi’s two senators, Trent Lott and Thad Cochran, have supported the idea of a compromise on post office hours and have discussed the issue with Postal Service officials, Heidel said.