Neither rain, nor sleet. . . nor bitter cold

Barbourville Post Office
Barbourville Post Office

“People can help us by clearing a path to their mailboxes. The snow plows not only block people’s driveways, but also our access to their mailboxes.”

— Charles Ramey, Barbourville Postmaster

Few people are aware of the fact that the Barbourville Post Office has had no heat on the workroom floor for the better part of a month. Up until the recent snowstorm and subsequent bitter cold temperatures, that has not been much of a problem for the workers. “Even on cold days, it’s stayed around 65 degrees on the floor,” said Chuck Kennett, post office custodian. “However, since the snowstorm earlier this week, it’s gotten quite chilly back here.”

The customer service area at the front of the post office does have heat; however, officials are not sure when heat will be restored to the back of the building.

“The work is done by contractors,” said Post Office Supervisor Beverly Hembree. “We know it’ll get fixed, we just don’t know when.”

Postal workers struggled Thursday morning to sort packages and letters as their hands were so cold they had to don heavy coats and winter gloves. Things were so uncomfortable that around 8 a.m. one of the carriers, Jason Grubb, decided to call the city’s mayor for help.

By late Thursday morning the workroom floor was back in full swing with heat, thanks to the generosity of the Barbourville community. As soon as Mayor David Thompson got word the post office was in dire need of heat, he then put the word out. Within the hour, enough heaters were donated (thanks to the mayor, Pope Lumber, T & L Pawn and Magistrate Jason Lake) to bring the warehouse-sized workroom back up to a comfortable working temperature.

“We really appreciate the donations,” said postal worker Jessica Bay, who was glad to ditch the gloves. “It’s made work a lot more comfortable.”

Although the onslaught of the recent winter storm has curtailed post office deliveries somewhat, the postal workers have not stopped delivering mail, at least to those areas they can get to safely.

“We’ve have people going out in their own cars making deliveries to anywhere they can get to,” said Kennett. “Even the postmaster himself has been out delivering mail.”

“We’re should be back on schedule by the end of the week, so long as the weather holds out,” said Hembree. “Unfortunately, we still cannot get to some secondary roads.”

The thermometer showed minus 20 degrees Friday morning, but with the threat of the new winter storm coming in, postal workers were working feverishly to get their vehicles loaded for the day’s deliveries.

“In all my time here, we’ve never stopped delivering, even for a day,” said Postmaster Charles Ramey. “If the mail comes in, we’ll be out there attempting to deliver it. We’re not going to put our carriers in jeopardy, but they’re getting out there and maxing themselves out.”

The postmaster said there is one small thing the community can do to help insure continued and safe delivery of their mail.

“People can help us by clearing a path to their mailboxes. The snow plows not only block people’s driveways, but also access to their mailboxes,” said Ramey.

Postal carrier Chris Smith delivers mail in town and throughout the back roads between the city and Knox County High School. He said he’s had to get out of his vehicle in order to put mail in someone’s box along the roadside.

“Even in weather like this, we’ve got to move these packages,” said Smith. “And I’ve been out here too long to let the mail back up.”

All of the postal workers wish to thank the generosity of those who donated heaters.

“We really appreciate them, said Postmaster Ramey. “The difference in 40 degrees and 58 degrees is a huge change. We’re just grateful how the community responded so quickly.”