Sykesville post office wrestles with growing pains

February 08, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

For Sykesville, loss of the post office would mean the loss of more than a building.

"If the post office relocates, we could lose our identity," said Town Councilman Eugene E. Johnson.

If hospitality could keep the office in town, it would stay indefinitely, said Joel T. Nupp, acting postmaster.

"The town has really treated us well and has always been helpful," he said. "As soon as it snows, they are here with salt to keep the area safe for carriers."

The carriers reciprocate. During the recent spate of bad weather, they didn't miss a delivery. Mr. Nupp produced letters from customers who were grateful.

But, a good working relationship can't add space in the 20-year-old building. Sykesville's post office is straining at the seams and needs a building twice its 5,354-square-foot size, said Mr. Nupp, who has worked in the post office for 12 years.

A new site for the 21784 ZIP code is in the postal five-year plan, said Larry Hoeck, manager for postal operations in Frederick. Mr. Nupp said the project is among the top priorities in the state.

"For financial reasons, building is on hold," Mr. Hoeck said.

Instead of expanding, the postal service has been consolidating sites in the county. Last year, it closed three rural sites in western Carroll.

A bidding process would determine the eventual location.

"We advertise for sites and it depends on who comes forward," LTC Mr. Hoeck said.

Sykesville's growth mirrors that of Carroll County, which the postal service describes "as the most moved-to area in the state," Mr. Nupp said.

"We now have about 10,000 deliveries a day," he said.

"This area is growing at about 15 percent a year, and I don't see that stopping. We can never project exactly what will happen, but that will probably continue," he said.

In South Carroll, the postal building bustles with activity. In the middle of the day, long lines of people move steadily toward two service windows.

"The post office doesn't want any customer in line for more than five minutes and we stick to that," Mr. Nupp said.

Several people milled around rows of boxes and chatted amiably with neighbors.

"The same people come in every day," he said. "It's like an old town barbershop atmosphere."

Even the parking lot was crowded.

"Sometimes, they are lined up Village Road waiting to get in here," Mr. Nupp said.

He said he often adjusts schedules for 54 employees to reduce crowding. The small town and friendly atmosphere prevails at the office, where most of the staff has been at the same location for at least 10 years, he said.

"If employees here were less friendly, there might be problems," he said. "Overcrowding forces them to work back-to-back."

As the workload has grown, route preparation has squeezed into every foot of space.

"Three routes are in the men's locker room; three are in a storage room; and three more are in the old swing room employees used to use for breaks," he said.

Breaks are now relegated to a bench along a row of lockers. Files have replaced custodial supplies in storage closets. Carriers have to move equipment on the loading dock to get their hampers out to vehicles, he said.

"We have no more room to expand," said Mr. Nupp, who wonders how long the site can operate at optimum efficiency.

The office, off Sandosky Road near Route 32, serves the entire Sykesville-Eldersburg area. Its 21 routes -- some with 700 daily deliveries -- stretch north to Klees Mill Road, east to the Baltimore County line and west to Taylorsville. Two routes go into Howard County.

"As far as revenue generation goes, a lot of customers don't even know we are here," Mr. Nupp said. "This branch is profitable, at least close to break even." A more visible location along Liberty Road would be more profitable, he said.

"Up there, we would generate more revenue," he said. "That is the bottom line. We are in business to make money."

Sykesville Mayor Kenneth W. Clark said he plans to do all he can to keep the site in town. Postal officials have briefed residents on future plans at council meetings on several occasions.

"The post office has not lifted its no-build restraint as far as we know," Mr. Clark said. "We are keeping in touch."

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