The old post office location was used as a gathering place for locals to stop for a chat while picking up their mail. File Photo

Grasmere postal service still in question

A community meeting leaves residents with more questions than answers

On January 20 residents of Grasmere, local politicians and a representative from Canada Post gathered at the Grasmere Community Hall to discuss postal service in the small, rural town.

The Free Press previously reported that the Grasmere Post Office was shut down due to the inability of the owners of the building to come to an agreement with Canada Post regarding funds. The couple who owned the building where the post office was housed, Heath and Barbara Slee, said that they were no longer able to subsidize Canada Post and provide their extensive services for the sum of $250 a month.

On October 1, 2019, the post office was moved from its former location and since then, a temporary one year deal was signed with the Triangle Women’s Institute and Canada Post to keep postal service running in the community.

“Right now the post office is at the library and the post office boxes are on the highway,” explained MP Rob Morrison after attending the open house discussion on Monday night.

Although the one year deal guarantees that postal service in Grasmere won’t disappear in the next year, there are still many unanswered questions regarding postal service in the area. For example, will there be a long term solution and what will it look like?

According to Morrison, “everybody in Grasmere, what they wanted was a solution that they can run with for the next two, three, four, five years so wherever it ends up, if it stays with the library or goes back to where it was, I think that both sides just wanted something better for the community long term.”

One of the biggest unknowns at this point is what to do with the former post office location. Although there was some talk about moving the post office back to its original location at the Slee’s property, Heath Slee said that there would need to be a big shift in funding for that to happen.

“I think that a situation like we had, with our former outlet is the ideal location from a safety perspective, for the convenience of the postmaster sorting the mail, it’s probably the best of all solutions but the question remains, are they willing to pay us fair and reasonable compensation,” said Slee. “Two hundred and fifty dollars a month – there was just no way I could even pay for the power and heat let alone the insurance and all the other expenses that go hand in hand with it.”

Slee also made an interesting point when he brought up the safety of residents in his statement. Currently, the post boxes are situated along Highway 93 which as he noted, “is a safety concern for residents.” Since the flow of traffic along the highway can become busy at times, Slee worried that “when people are going to gather their mail at all hours of the day or night, then it becomes a safety issue.”

Slee has offered to resume postal service at their original location as long as Canada Post pays him a reasonable and fair rate for the work being done. If that doesn’t happen and postal services continues to be run in a different fashion, Slee said that Canada Post still has a responsibility for the building.

“With respect to the building that housed the former post office and they’ve still got post office boxes, actual, physical boxes attached to our building and we would like to have them removed and have Canada Post remove them and put the wall back into a semblance of normalcy. We want the building put back into it’s original state,” he said.

Slee paid for the necessary addition to the building and wants Canada Post to pay to remove the postal boxes if they decide not to move the post office back.

As residents brought up concerns of sustainability, safety and fair payment, Canada Post representative Benjamin Berman was on hand to take note. Although Canada Post declined to comment on the meeting or deals with the Grasmere community, Morrison feels good about the meeting with Berman.

“He didn’t know until the meeting some of the challenges so it was really good to have him there to hear first hand what is happening in our rural post offices,” said Morrison. “The manager made some good notes and he took away some items on his to-do list and I’m really confident that we’re going to get what we need for the volunteers and for the people of Grasmere so they can get back to their community post office and the social benefits of that.”

Although Morrison said he felt confident that a longer term agreement can be reached with Canada Post in Grasmere, Slee said that he was only “cautiously optimistic” after the meeting on Monday night.

“I couldn’t say that I was happy [with the outcome],” he said. “There was no firm response that they would follow up with our request to remove the boxes.”

In the meantime, residents in Grasmere can still send and receive mail which both Slee and Morrison noted as incredibly important for the small community.

“We certainly want to retain postal service down here in this community because it’s a service that residents require and need and here it’s somewhat of a remote location to the next post office so we certainly don’t want to lose our postal service down here,” said Slee.

Morrison has promised to follow up with Canada Post to make sure resident’s concerns are being taken seriously, even adding that “if we have to step it up another level in Ottawa, then I’m certainly more than willing to do that.”

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