HOPE, Kan. (AP) — During the five years since rural mail carriers stopped delivering mail to her home, Geraldine Kohman said she’s written a stack of protest letters.
Some correspondence to her Washington, D.C., lawmakers, the U.S. Postal Service and Dickinson County officials has been mailed from the post office in Hope, 14 miles round trip from her home. Other letters have been sent by email.
Regardless of how they were sent, few of her letters have been answered.
“I’m very angry, and I don’t get over it. I’ve sent about 100 letters, and they just ignore you,” said Kohman, 75.
Her quest to have mail deliveries restored at her home in southern Dickinson County has occupied much of her time in the past five years.
The rusty mailbox lid at her home has fallen off, and she is aching for a good reason to make repairs.
The Postal Service stopped delivering to 17 farmers in rural areas of Dickinson County during 2009, said Brad Homman, Dickinson County administrator.
“I think it’s un-American, and it’s not right,” Kohman said.
County officials were told that some roads have been deemed “impassable most of the time,” Homman said, which is a declaration he disputes.
“Our roads are the same they have been for the last 100 years. Nothing has changed, except for the route the Postal Service wants to take,” he said.
Some county roads have a gravel base and others are dirt roads.
Homman said the Postal Service changed its route to save miles — and an estimated $2,600 a year in travel costs.
During inclement weather, delivering to the 17 addresses required covering more miles.
Another option was upgrading the new preferred postal routes to gravel, Homman said, which would cost the county more than $500,000 to improve up to five miles of country road to satisfy the postal service.
“It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out which is better; $2,600 or a half million,” he said. “I take the position that when I put a stamp on a letter, I assume that stamp is a promissory note that it’s going to be delivered, except for the 17 people in rural Hope.”
In an email response to questions on Friday, postal service spokesman Brian Sperry of Denver wrote, “The decision to change the line of travel was not financially driven. Having a well maintained road that is passable year-round is vital to delivering the mail safely, efficiently and regularly.”
Adjustments to the “line of travel” in a rural mail route in the Hope area were made in 2009, Sperry wrote, “due to a road that had fallen into disrepair and was not maintained. It deteriorated to the point where it was impassable to the rural carrier 120 days out of the year.”
Homman sent photos of county roads in the area. Sperry did the same. Visit salina.com to view the pictures.
Also on salina.com is a four-minute video clip from the Thursday regular meeting of the Dickinson County Commission. At that meeting, commissioners approved sending a letter from the county to Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts and Rep. Tim Huelskamp, asking for assistance.
One stretch of road in question is the 1 1/2-miles on Jeep Road from Kansas Highway 4 south to Kohman’s mailbox.
Much of that portion of Jeep Road consists of some gravel and small rocks mixed into a dirt surface.
“It’s OK when it’s dry, but if it rains, we cannot go that direction,” said Steve Kohman, of Andover, Geraldine’s son.
Going south, he said, Jeep Road “is one of the best gravel roads around.”
County officials told her that upgrading that section of Jeep Road to gravel would eat up 100 percent of Banner Township’s budget.
The half mile from her home south to 400 Avenue has a gravel base. That section of Jeep Road is in better condition, she said, because the First Baptist Church of Dickinson County was once perched high on that corner. It was torn down a couple of years ago. The cemetery where her husband, William Kohman, and many other family members are buried remains.
“That’s part of why I persist,” she said, pointing to the gravestones.
Prior to 2009, Kohman said, the mail carrier would drive from the south, drop off her mail, turn around in her driveway and leave in the same direction, avoiding the dirt portion of Jeep Road.
The postal service offered three delivery options, Sperry wrote in his email: moving a mailbox along the new route, a free post office box at Hope or a secure centralized unit of mailboxes if all of the households agreed. The customers chose the post office boxes, Sperry wrote.
Kohman said she considered a locking mailbox along the blacktopped Key Road, one mile east of her home.
“I could get one but the carriers can’t carry keys,” she said.
She refused the post office box out of principle, and said others have decided the same.
“Most of them feel we would lose the case if we accepted post office boxes,” she said. “So my mail sits on the counter, like I’m homeless.”
Trips to Hope are expensive when you’re just going to check your mail, Kohman said. She makes it to town once a week.
That delay caused her to miss a key deadline early on, and her life insurance policy was dropped.
Renting their farm and ranch requires daily access to mail service, she said.
“There are 1,000 head of cattle in my backyard. It’s a pretty large farm,” Kohman said. “It’s just like we’re nobody as a business.”