East Berne Post Office potholes to be fixed soon

The Enterprise — Noah Zweifel

The exterior of the East Berne Post Office is clearly worn, and a wide pothole that’s between one and two inches deep can be seen in the parking lot. A second pothole sits just out of frame.  The interior of the office appeared to The Enterprise to be in good shape. 

EAST BERNE — It’ll be smooth sailing through the East Berne Post Office parking lot soon, as the sizable potholes there are expected to be fixed by the end of the month. 

The Enterprise received a letter to the editor in late June from a resident, Carmella Kapper, who had issues with the state of the post office and wondered why nothing was being done. 

Upon inquiry, The Enterprise learned that remedies were already in motion regarding the potholes, which were the most serious of the concerns she raised, as the rough pavement could feasibly damage the vehicles of anyone pulling in to handle their postal business. 

United States Postal Service representative Mark Lawrence told The Enterprise that a work order had been received and should be complete by the end of the month — news that pleased Kapper, once she heard. 

The office’s postmaster, David G. McClure, said that the general wear on the building’s exterior will also be taken care of.  

McClure oversees the Rensselaerville and Westerlo post offices as well, which he said he fixed up, and added that the Clarksville office was being worked on at the time he spoke with the paper in late June. 

Officially, McClure is the postmaster of the Westerlo post office, into which those other offices — known as “remotely managed post offices” — were consolidated in 2013, according to USPS. The Carksville office had been slated for closure in 2012 when the late Peter Henner, a Clarksville lawyer who wrote a column for The Enterprise, led a group of petitioners that kept the office open.

“It takes some time,” McClure said of getting repairs completed. “ … We’re in the wilderness out here.”

He also said, “Nothing can be written in the paper or anything like that because we can’t have bad media for the postal service in general. If you do [a negative article] for here, it’s for the whole postal service in general … and we can’t have that.”


The importance of rural post offices

Despite the problems that befall rural post offices, which are easy to overlook, rural residents tend to be exceptionally favorable of the postal service, according to the Economic Policy Institute, based in Washington, D.C. 

The left-leaning, not-for-profit think tank highlighted a survey that found that rural Americans — despite generally being more conservative and distrusting of the federal government and federal services — place a high degree of trust in the USPS, putting them at odds with Republican lawmakers who tend to want to cut funding. 

Adding to the decline of the postal service due to burgeoning use of the internet, former President Donald Trump and the postmaster general he appointed, Louis DeJoy, who is still in office, infamously undermined it around the 2020 election by removing equipment and cutting salaries, causing massive delays in mailing times, including for critical items like prescriptions. 

The Trump administration’s threat of postal privatization spurred local rallies.

In rural areas like the Hilltowns, the mail is the easiest way for people, especially the elderly, to get their medications. According to Google Maps, the closest pharmacy to the Berne Town Hall is a 30-minute drive. 

In addition to the practical benefits, a recent CBS News report that focused on the connection residents of Alplaus, in Schenectady County, had to their post office before it was closed 10 years ago found that some residents had seen it as a place to catch up with their neighbors, as one might as they stop for gas or stroll up and down the aisles of a grocery store.

(For what it’s worth, a post office and mail system are prominent features of the Animal Crossing video games, which simulate relaxing, small-town life.) 

When USPS shut down the Knox Post Office in 2012, because of issues like mold and rodents that are more serious than what appears to afflict the East Berne Post Office, residents were upset, as their post office boxes were moved to East Berne. Later, post office boxes were installed outside the town hall but no postal services were offered. 

Enterprise columnist John Williams most thoroughly cataloged the local frustration in a 2014 edition of his Old Men of the Mountain column, which recounts the conversations that a large group of elderly Hilltowners have each week.

“The OFs have mentioned before (in this little weekly report) that the Hilltown Café and the Rensselaerville Post Office are in the same small building just outside the village, off the road heading up the hill,” he wrote. “The OFs who live in the town of Knox take advantage of this to purchase stamps, and take care of other post-office business because the post office in the town of Knox is no longer available. 

“The OFs complain about this all the time,” he went on. “The OFs in Knox have to trot either to East Berne or Altamont to transact any routine post-office business they may have. For some OFs, this is a 20-mile round trip. ’Tain’t fun, Magee, when the alimony is due and there is a blinding snowstorm … Something doesn’t add up here, so the OFs still complain and are wondering whom we have offended.”

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