By JOHN FLOWERS
RIPTON — Ripton officials on Thursday were optimistic their community would soon see basic mail service return to their community, while around a half-dozen people have expressed interest in filling the town’s vacant postmaster position.
Ripton Town Clerk Sally Hoyler said plans call for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to provide funding to resurrect delivery and mail handling at the Ripton Country Store, where those services were offered until late last month. However, any financial transactions — like buying stamps — would still have to be handled at the East Middlebury Post Office, which has been handling all mail functions for Ripton since the USPS abruptly closed the tiny community’s post office late last month.
“I think it’s important we get service back as quickly as possible,” Hoyler said. “Getting service back soon works in our favor.”
In an interview on July 9, Hoyler said she hoped service could be restored within days.
Hoyler said plans call for Ripton’s most recent postmaster, Bonnie DeGray, to be re-installed in her position on an interim basis. Other part-timers would be trained to fill in for DeGray during hours she will be unable to cover because of other commitments, according to Hoyler, who is one of the likely fill-ins. DeGray could not be reached for comment.
This interim setup would be in place for roughly 60 days, at which time the USPS hopes to name a new postmaster, according to Hoyler.
Ripton’s post office closed after DeGray’s contract expired and the USPS could not negotiate a new pact satisfactory to both parties. For reasons the USPS has declined to explain, the postal service did not seek another new postmaster before closing the Ripton Post Office.
Last week was the deadline for prospective postmasters to declare interest in the Ripton vacancy. Hoyler said “five or six” people have submitted their names to the USPS.
Kathy Roy, USPS spokeswoman, said on Thursday she could not confirm a reopening of the Ripton Post Office.
“We have not finalized anything,” Roy said. “We are working as quickly as possible to obtain a temporary solution to reinstate service.”
Vermont’s Congressional delegation has been working publicly and behind the scenes on Ripton’s behalf. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., said he believes the importance of Ripton’s post office can’t be underestimated.
“It’s part of what makes the community a vital place,” Welch said during a Thursday telephone interview. “Had they lost (the post office), it would’ve been a real loss in the ties that bind the community. The folks in Ripton want this, need it and have made a good claim to maintain it.”