KANEVILLE – Roger Fronek was sent off “in grand style” on his last day as the officer in charge at the Kaneville Post Office.
Fronek, a popular figure in the village, was given a going-away party that included residents, Village President Pat Hill and a cake. His departure was no small deal in the village, where there had been concerns since the U.S. Postal Service announced a reduction of hours at the Kaneville office, which is at 2S101 Harter Road in Kaneville.
“Everybody said goodbye,” Hill said.
The reduced hours now are in place – from noon to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday. Previously, the office had hours of 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. Saturday hours remain unchanged. Residents were upset and wondered whether that was the first step toward eliminating the office.
“They want their identity,” said Hill, who, as the owner of Hill’s Country Store – known as the purple store – hears from residents every day. She can see the post office from her store, which is across the street.
The U.S. Post Office has lost billions of dollars and originally announced it would close offices throughout the nation in an effort to save money. Instead, the decision was made to cut hours at some locations.
Postal officials say there are no plans to close the Kaneville office, but it’s also unlikely that the hours will be reinstated anytime soon. Post office spokeswoman Beverly Howard said the office still is in the process of carrying out its reduction of hours at offices throughout the nation, a move that is expected to save $500 million. Post office officials have touted the plan as an alternative to closing the offices.
“They are probably being generous by giving them the [reduced] hours, even if it doesn’t seem that way,” said Fronek, who, as a “flexible clerk,” now will work at several offices in the region. “For them not to close the office, that was the compromise. … They considered this the lesser of two evils.”
Hill said Kaneville residents want their full hours back.
“I feel we deserve it,” she said.
She said at the least, residents want assurances that the office isn’t going to be closed. She said she has sought to contact U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, and other officials for help. Reached via email, Hultgren wrote he would “encourage the Postmaster General’s efforts to explore alternative ways to reduce their costs to avert the closure of the Kaneville Post Office.” Hultgren wrote he understood that “hard choices” were necessary “to get the USPS back on a path towards fiscal solvency.”
“However, post offices are the lifeblood and centers of commerce for many local communities throughout Illinois and the United States,” Hultgren wrote. “As the postal service continues looking for ways to stay competitive and cut costs, these local centers should not be forced to bear the total costs of these reforms.”
Hultgren added he would “continue being a voice of reasonable reforms that preserve the ability of the postal service to serve our local communities.”
Howard said she “can’t really know what’s going to happen later on down the road, but I do know there are no plans to close the office.” Since the postal service still hasn’t completed carrying out its plan to reduce hours at offices throughout the nation, she said it’s unlikely hours would be restored.
While she said Kaneville residents want their full hours back, Hill added that “the bottom line is keeping it open.” She said residents will miss Fronek. She said he went above and beyond – for instance, if mail had been addressed simply to Pat Hill in Kaneville, Fronek would make sure she would get it.
“That’s what we’re going to miss,” Hill said.
Fronek said “there’s no way you can’t get attached to people when you work at a one-man office like that.” He said he got to know everybody in town by name.
“I miss them, too,” he said.