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Town hiring for vacant Sykesville Post Offce positions

The long-term future of Sykesville's Old Main Line Visitors Center and Post Office remains uncertain, after the post office closed last month following the firing of the manager and the resignations of the remaining employees.

The town is currently seeking employees to fill the customer service/sales associate vacancies, according to Town Manager Dawn Ashbacher. However, the post office is only guaranteed to stay open until June, she said.

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Jean Maher, the former manager of the post office, was fired from her part-time position Nov. 1 for unprofessional conduct. On Nov. 5 the post office's three part-time employees, Kathy Gambrill, Connie McKay and Judy Lettie, handed in their letters of resignation.

With no manager or employees left, Mayor Mike Miller said in a statement that the post office would be closed until further notice.

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Maher has since filed a grievance with the town.

Miller said he was unable to give further information, because personnel matters within the town are confidential.

At the Nov. 26 Sykesville Town Council meeting, the council voted to continue the post office's contract until at least the Fiscal Year 2014 budget meetings in June.

Ashbacher said the town has what is called a Contract Postal Unit with the U.S. Postal Service.

"The post office can contract with another entity, like a business or a town, who offers postal services," she said. "We provide the services that are just like postal services but it is town employees. They have their requirements for us and we meet those requirements."

Ashbacher said the three post office employees who resigned were given the opportunity to return to their positions, but they each declined.

Once the town hires new employees to be trained by the postal service, the Old Main Line Visitors Center and Post Office will be up and running again, but Ashbacher stressed that this solution is only guaranteed to last until budget discussions in June.

"The services will be provided to the town and it will give the town a chance to evaluate the various options," Ashbacher said.

Sykesville Director of Economic Development and Main Street Manager Ivy Wells said the economic development committee has been brainstorming ways to keep the post office alive for the past several months. The town pays around $26,000 a year to keep the post office running, and it does not make enough money to be cost neutral.

"We really wanted to make the post office and visitor center a feature here on Main Street," Wells said. "We were in the process of exploring those options when this whole thing happened unexpectedly."

Wells said she has also volunteered to be trained by the U.S. Postal Service so that if a similar situation arises in the future, someone on the town staff would be able to fill in at the post office.

The economic development committee has come up with several new ideas for the visitor's center and post office, she said.

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The main idea is to turn the establishment into more of a Sykesville welcome center, while still offering postal services.

The welcome center could be like a consignment shop for local artists, where they can display and sell their artwork. It could also feature a rotating exhibit from Sykesville's Gate House Museum of History, she said.

"Within the Main Street economic development committee we were always trying to work for a positive resolve for the post office and visitor center, trying to make it more of a viable market place for downtown," Wells said. "I'm not going to give up on this."

Several town residents, including former councilwoman Debby Ellis, have said they do not want to give up on the post office, either.

"When you live in a small town, quality of life is so important," Ellis said. "We have some essential services, like the police department and public works, and then you have things that add to the quality of life, like the downtown area, the Gate House, the Colored Schoolhouse and the post office."

While Ellis said it is tough to say which of the non-essential services is most important to the town, she believes that the Old Main Line Visitor Center and Post Office is critical.

The visitor center provides and important service to those who are new to Sykesville, and the post office provides an invaluable service for town residents, she said.

Ellis said she goes to the post office at least twice a week, and since it has been closed she has had to travel out of town to Eldersburg, West Friendship or Columbia.

As a former member of the town council, Ellis said she understands what the council is going through, and she knows that some of the town's services will never be cost neutral. She has her own idea for a solution.

"I know the town council is trying to make all of these services cost neutral which I think is admirable, but you've got these old historic buildings which come with costs, and the budget has always been difficult," Ellis said. "The town residents have to make a decision about what they want to pay for. I am willing to pay increased taxes to fund these things - I know a lot of people are not, but I personally am."

For now, the post office will re-open as soon as the town has hired new employees and they have been trained by the U.S. Postal Service. The deadline to apply for the vacant positions was Dec. 7.

The Old Main Line Visitor Center and Post Office will remain open until June, but after that, it's future is unknown.

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