Brockton residents feel they're being held hostage by the U. S. Postal Service.
The town's post office closed its doors at 199 Mine St. last October, after the post office was evicted by the building's owner. Since then, Brockton residents are being forced to go to Mary D to retrieve their mail, where they must pay $40 for a post office box.
"And we don't even get a key for that $40," said one resident. "We have to go to the counter to ask for it."
Classified as "suspended," the town's post office appears to be destined for permanent closure.
On Thursday, 75 of the town's 400 residents turned out at St. Mary's Church, Green Street, to meet with postal officials and to air their grievances.
A big part of the problem, say residents, is confusion over addresses, ZIP codes, and the possibility the postal service will declare the town a rural service area.
If that happens, each postal customer would be required to erect a mail box and allow for open space in front of their homes equivalent to two car lengths virtually eliminating most of the parking spaces in town.
Residents told Robert Varano, Harrisburg postmaster, and Kristen Krashnak, acting manager, post office operations, that service has declined and the current setup isn't working.
"Why is our town being treated like a rural area when we're a town," asked Patty Skripko. She later told officials "There is no way I can put a box in front of my house."
Others voiced similar concerns.
A rural designation would likely result in the community using the Brockton name but the Tamaqua Zip code, 18252, instead of Brockton's 17925.
Some said a change of address also causes issues with a homeowner's insurance policy. Another said using a Tamaqua address would only cause additional problems because there is duplication in street names. For instance, there is a Green Street in both Tamaqua and Brockton.
Varano said he welcomes the comments because the purpose of the community meeting is to gauge public concern.
"There's no decision to close it. It's still suspended. There's always an option to open it up," he said, but then added, "Ten to 15 years ago it'd be easier. But with us losing so much money, it's a lot harder in this environment."
Residents said the daily trip to Mary D can be troublesome, even though it's less than two miles away. For one, there is a hill that can become treacherous.
"To go to Mary D in a storm isn't convenient to anybody," said Bridget Leskin.
Joe Yesavage agreed.
"Brockton is a senior citizen community. You can't walk there (to Mary D) without taking your life in your hands," he said.
One resident said altering ZIP codes isn't the answer.
"We're going to have problems even if you change our ZIP codes. I know how ZIP codes work and they don't," said Tom Milot, a former postal employee.
Resident Donald Gerber said there will be complications in changing ZIP codes, especially because the change impacts the origination point for mail distribution and subsequent delivery.
In addition, residents say their mail isn't secure and is being delayed, and arrives mangled.
Although no official vote was taken, it appears that residents would prefer keeping a post office in Brockton. If that can't happen, their second choice would be to receive door-to-door mail delivery, not placed into a rural mail box at the curbside, but into the front door.
State Rep. Jerry Knowles, R-124, told postal officials that the large turnout alone is cause for concern.
"The reason people get frustrated is that people think you're giving them lip service ... we have to make it right," he said, to a round of applause.
Knowles promised to work with U.S. Rep. Tim Holden, D-17, to come up with suggested solutions.