2013-03-13 / Front Page

Neon officials say town’s post office is a dirty ‘disgrace’

Fleming-Neon city officials say that if conditions do not improve at the town’s post office — which they labeled a “disgrace” — they will file a complaint with U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers and the U.S. Postal Service.

At its March meeting, members of the Fleming-Neon City Council joined Mayor Susan Polis in condemning current conditions at the post office building, which was described by one council member as “just dirty.”

Mayor Polis and the council members said that since former Postmaster Paul Stambaugh left to take a similar position at another post office, the physical condition of the downtown Neon office has deteriorated badly. Councilman James D. Collins complained about slow and erratic mail delivery. Councilman Trey Quillen and Mayor Polis both said the condition of the post office is a disgrace, with Polis adding she hates to go into the building now since it had always been so clean in the past.

“It’s just dirty,” Quillen said.

Polis said she had spoken with postal officials and was told the vacant postmaster’s position should be filled soon. She said if conditions do not improve after the new postmaster is appointed she would file complaints with the Postal Service and Rep. Rogers.

David Walton, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service’s Kentucky operations, said Tuesday the complaints voiced by Fleming-Neon officials are the first brought to the attention of the organization. Walton said he has notified the manager of post office operations for the Neon office about the complaints. He advised citizens “having a problem” with conditions or services at the Neon office, as well as Seco, McRoberts and Cromona, to contact Whitesburg Postmaster Wendell Lewis at 633-2955.

“We need to know about that,” Walton said.

Until recently, the Neon Post Office was open eight hours a day and mail intended for the office and the area surrounding it was sorted there. Because of continuing and wellpublicized Postal Service reductions in hours and staff, the Neon office is now open only six hours a day and the mail delivered to the office and roadside and home mailboxes in the surrounding area is sorted in Whitesburg.

The reductions also mean the Neon office no longer qualifies for janitorial services. Because only one person now mans the office during the six hours the window is open, there is no way that employee can keep the building clean as well.

Walton said the proper time for the Fleming-Neon officials to have raised their objections to changes in operating hours and staff reductions at the Neon Post Office was when “community meetings” organized by the Postal Service were held several months ago.

“ The community was given the opportunity to add its input,” Walton told The Mountain Eagle.

According to Walton, the Neon Post Office is one of the few in Letcher County still open at least six hours a day. He said that in September 2014, the operating hours at nearly every office in Letcher County besides Whitesburg will be reduced to either two or four hours a day.

Water woes fixed

It was also announced at the council’s March meeting that the long nightmare of being without water is over for customers of the Fleming-Neon Water Department and the city has taken steps to make certain it doesn’t happen again. Water Superintendent Chris Banks told the council that everyone in the system now has water and added that city workers have fixed 11 leaks that had helped lead to the outages.

Banks said that the water department is working on replacing all valves in the system and water tanks are full. He thanked everyone who helped with the repairs and gave special thanks to Nesbitt Engineering, Whitesburg Water Maintenance Director Chris Caudill, Robert Back of the Kentucky Department of Water, and city workers Jake Johnson and Steven O’Brian. Mayor Susie Polis also thanked Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward, Judge Pro-Tem Eddie Meade, Emergency Management Director Paul Miles, and Opal Sexton for volunteering to help with distributing bottled water and keeping records.

The council passed two resolutions to allow the city to accept funding that will be used to rehabilitate city water facilities and make sure the emergency doesn’t reoccur. They entered into an agreement with the Kentucky Department of Water to allow the Department of Local Government to administer a $50,000 grant that will be use to replace water valves and rehabilitate the system and another to allow Rural Community Action KY (RCAP) to administer a DOW Capacity Development Assistance Grant for water leak management that will use leak detectors to locate leaks so they can be repaired. Mayor Polis said she expects the city to sign a Memorandum of Agreement with DOW for the projects soon.

In other business, City Foreman Jake Johnson announced that April will be PRIDE Month. Johnson said PRIDE funding is down this year and for that reason there will only be nine pickup days when city residents can dispose of appliances, furniture and other items too large or bulky for regular sanitation pickup. Johnson cautioned that that city workers will not pick up roofing, tile, and other building materials.

Johnson said the pickup will operate two days per week and dates are April 2, 5, 9, 12, 16, 19, 23, 26 and 30. He asked that separate piles be made for recyclable items such as refrigerators, lawnmower bodies, stoves, and other metal appliances. He added that tipping fees will probably run over $400 for the entire month and the PRIDE grant this year will be $200. The council agreed that getting rid of the large items is worth the city paying the extra $200 plus. Johnson said the landfill fee is $45.36 per ton to dump.

City PRIDE Director James D. Collins selected April 20 as City Cleanup day and April 27 as the alternative in case of rain. All volunteers are welcome and are asked to assemble at city hall at 9 a.m. Collins, the city’s representative on the Parks and Recreation Commission, also told the council the city has a $3,000 allocation from Parks and Recreation and Johnson said that two wooden benches in the city park are badly weathered and should be replaced with metal ones.

Collins said one metal bench that was installed previously is holding up very well. Mayor Polis said the benches will be replaced and told Johnson to go ahead and take inventory on other items. Johnson also said the park needs mulch and Collins said that will be provided at no cost.

Councilman Robert Champion told Polis that some people are parking on the new sidewalks in Fleming, which damages sidewalks and causes pedestrians to have to walk in the highway to get around them. Mayor Polis said she has already directed Police Chief Mike Dingus to attend to the sidewalk parking matter.

Polis also pointed to the new layout of city hall, which expands the council chamber considerably and asked the council if it would like to see the wooden back wall painted white to match the other one and the council agreed.

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