An overflow crowd showed up at Sykesville's Town Council meeting on Nov. 14 — nearly all of them coming to register their disapproval of the town's Nov. 1 firing of Jean Maher, longtime manager of the Sykesville's downtown post office.
The Sykesville Old Main Line Visitor's Center and Post Office has been shuttered since Nov. 5, when its remaining three employees — Connie McKay, Kathy Gambrill and Judy Lettie — resigned in protest of Maher's dismissal.
In an open letter to the community posted on a local blog, sykesvilleonline.com, McKay, Gambrill and Lettie voiced support for Maher, saying they were "baffled" by the circumstances surrounding the dismissal.
But if residents were hoping that Mayor Mike Miller and the Town Council would help clarify the post office situation at the council's Nov. 14 meeting, they came away disappointed.
Miller opened the meeting with a statement saying he intended to postpone all discussions of Maher's firing and the visitor's center's closure until the next meeting. He said these issues "require long-term thinking, not knee-jerk reactions at this time."
The mayor said Maher has filed a grievance with the town over her dismissal and that "confidentiality issues" prohibited either he or the council from discussing the matter.
"Any notions that we are holding secrets among the council is not the case," he added.
But the vast majority of the 70 or so residents in attendance had come for the sole purpose of addressing these issues, and proceeded for the next hour to politely pepper the council with their questions and concerns.
Walter White, a longtime resident and former council member, reminded the council that in previous years, the town "worked hard to get this post office, and I'd hate to see it go."
White said many elderly residents, who find it difficult to travel to the main post office in Eldersburg — which shares the 21784 ZIP code with Sykesville — rely on the Sykesville postal outlet.
Mike Kasnia, another longtime resident, said in the past it was, "the hallmark of the council to show allegiance to those who had worked for the town for a long time," and he urged the mayor and council to reconsider Maher's firing.
In response, the mayor said the council's unanimous decision to dismiss Maher "was not sudden" and that he and the council were caught off guard by the abrupt resignation of the remaining postal staffers.
Town Councilman Ian Shaw admitted he shared many of the residents' concerns of the fate of the post office.
"I'm a bit disappointed," he said of the closure. He expressed fears that the temporary closure of the post office just before the holiday rush "may signify (the office's) death knell."
In their limited responses, the mayor and council assured residents that the post office is funded through July of next year and that its "suspension of operations" would only be temporary. They added that the cost to the town government of keeping the postal facility open is $25,000 to $30,000 annually.
After the meeting Mark Rychwalski, a resident and formal council member, said he was neither satisfied or assured by the council's responses.
Rychwalski also cited the recent string of resignations, retirements and dismissals of county employees, including longtime town manager Matt Candland, who left earlier this year. "There's a pattern to all those people leaving," Rychwalski added.
Jack White, a resident and editor of the sykesvilleonline.com site, had a similar reaction.
"The mayor was good tonight, but sometimes he gives the impression he doesn't like or respect the people of the town, that he considers us babies who want too much and don't understand the budgetary restraints he has to deal with when making decisions," White said.
The issue of Maher's dismissal and the closure of the post office has been a hot topic on White's site. Several residents have posted criticisms of Maher's firing on the blog and its Facebook page, and it heated up even further when Miller himself posted a response in which he referred some critics as "such babies," and wrote, "Seriously, you shouldn't even be posting negative comments unless you understand the situation which 99% on here don't. ... You all should be ashamed for your quick judgements and false accusations."
At Wednesday's meeting, one resident took the mayor to task for those comments. Miller acknowledged making them, and said he understood the resident's criticism.
Before the meeting adjourned, Miller and the council agreed to devote their next meeting, on Nov. 26, to continuing discussions on the future of the post office.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun