FORRESTON – It was standing room only Thursday evening as residents filled the Forreston Fellowship Hall to hear information about the possible closure of their local post office from officials with the United States Postal Service.

“I appreciate every one of you coming here this evening. It is a very difficult time because we are going to be talking about the future of your local post office,” post office operations manager for the Fort Worth district Sid Winn said.

“At the United States Postal Service we are going through some very difficult times and I am sure most of you are aware about that from reading the newspaper, seeing us on television and on the Internet,” he said. “Unfortunately, in the last few years, we have seen some changes that have drastically impacted the way we provide service.”

Winn said the post office was impacted by the 2008 stock market crash, which caused a number of businesses to change the way they do business, including the use of other means as opposed to traditional mail. Also, the use of personal computers and other electronic devices has caused more people to go online to take care of their business, Winn said.

Thursday’s meeting was not an announcement Forreston’s post office is closing but rather to inform the community that its post office is being considered for a possible closure in the future. If the post office would close, USPS would install a series of cluster mailboxes that would hold 16 post office boxes each. For the delivery of packages, parcel lockers would be installed.

The cluster boxes would be secured on an outside concrete slab. After the boxes are installed, residents would be able to use their existing P.O. box addresses up to a year before they being required to use their physical address as their mailing address.

The other option for residents would be to have their mail delivered by a rural mail carrier from Maypearl who travels through Forreston. Services such as mailing packages and selling stamps can be accomplished as cash-only transactions by the rural carrier, it was noted.

There are 472 post offices in the Fort Worth District being considered for closure, of which 95 post offices are located in small communities, Winn said. The Fort Worth District encompasses a geographic area that goes along Interstate 35 as far south as Maypearl. The district travels west along Interstate 20 to Coahoma and goes north to include the Texas panhandle and parts of the Oklahoma panhandle.

Residents expressed their concerns and asked questions about the possible closure. Paul Gonzales said an idea expressed by Winn to use the Internet as an alternative wasn’t an option for some residents.

“Out here in Forreston they were trying to present as an alternative for some of these seniors and some of these people that live out here in these rural area that we could utilize Internet services for their postal services,” Gonzales said.

“Well, we don’t have any DSL lines out here and there is no infrastructure for any type of Internet access. That is something that you have to pay additional for satellite to come out to be put on your home. That would be just another additional cost for these seniors who don’t have the resources for that,” he said.

Cathy Scott said the community needs to come together to help save the post office because driving six miles to Italy and 18 miles to Maypearl for postal services is not feasible.

“Most of the people who live here are elderly and they fall below an economic in-come in which it is not easy for them to drive. They don’t have money to do so,” Scott said. “The post office means everything because it is a hub and it has been in our community since 1843. We don’t want to lose it.”

Colin Russell agreed with Scott that it will be an inconvenience to travel out of the community to receive essential services. If a person needs to go to the post office he or she will use a gallon of gas round trip, he said, saying that if a trip is made once a day, five days a week, the expense adds up over time, he said.

Other concerns expressed by residents included security of mail and vandalism.

In response, Winn said mounting a campaign to save the post office is a “very difficult task” – but it can be done. He suggested residents contact their elected representatives to express their concerns.

Ellis County Commissioner, Pct. 3, Heath Sims said the county passed a resolution in March requesting that USPS not close any post offices in Ellis County.

Sims provided Winn with copy of the resolution, a letter from state Rep. Jim Pitts and a letter from himself expressing the need to keep the post office in Forreston open. The letters and county resolution will be forwarded to Congressman Joe Barton and U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Forreston residents can contact Barton at his Ennis office at 2106 A W. Ennis Ave., Ennis, TX 75119 or by phone at 972-875-8488. Barton can be reached at his Washington office at 2109 Rayburn Building Washington, D.C. 20515 or by phone at 202-225-2002. His website is www.joebarton.house.gov.

Hutchison can be reached at her Dallas office at 10440 N. Central Expressway,?Suite 1160, or by phone at 214-361-3500. Hutchison can also be reached in Washington at 284 Russell Senate Office Building,?Washington, D.C. 20510-4304 or by phone at 202-224-5922. Her website is www.hutchison.senate.gov.

Cornyn can be reached at 517 Hart Senate Office Bldg., Washington, D.C., 20510 or by phone at 202-224-2934. Cornyn can be reached at his Dallas office at 5001 Spring Valley Road, Suite 1125E, or by phone at 972-239-1310. His website is www.cornyn.senate.gov/public.

Contact Andrew at andrew.branca@wninews.com or 469-517-1451.