Monday, June 30, 2008

A Letter from our Congressional Reps

Click here for a higher resolution image [385 kb jpeg].

Or click here for a copy of the doc as a pdf [350 kb pdf].

Talking with the office of Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders, one of Vermont's United States Senators, is proving to be an ally to our community. According to one of his staff,
  • They consider the postal crisis to be a serious problem, and sympathize with our complaints
  • They like our petition and our actions so far
  • One staff member is now working on this full-time
  • Sanders is working with USPS right now
Here's the phone number for Sanders' office: 1-802-862-0697 - or - 1-800-339-9834

Filing your Complaints about the P.O. Closure

Readers of The Riptonite have sent in valuable information regarding the closure of our Post Office.

First, here are links to the procedure for filing complaints about Post Office closures:

The Postal Regulatory Commission reviews complaints about the closing of Post Offices.

See for the Rules, pages 97-100 of this pdf document:


Secondly, here is the address of the Postmaster General, followed by an excellent sample letter:

The Honorable Jack Potter
Postmaster General
U.S. Postal Service
475 L'Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, DC 20260-0010

Dear Mr. Postmaster General:

The Ripton, Vermont Post office (05766) is suddenly closing, by
management fiat, without community input or review and in apparent
ignorance of Title 39, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 241.3. The
decision to close requires a 60 day comment period involving the
public. There is also a 30 day period of appeal. None of this
happened; the decision was taken in secrecy, and the only notice was a
handwritten poster outside the PO telling residents that the boxes
themselves would be removed by this coming weekend.

It's a new hardship for Riptonites, residents of a mountain community
including many elderly, who will now be forced to commute at least 3.3
miles, expending extra fuel and expense to retrieve mail that used to
come to us. The extra trips up and down the mountain will be even
more difficult and hazardous next Winter.

Please investigate this apparent breach of the law governing Postal
operations, and let the people of Ripton know the results.

Thank you very much,


Robert Wagner
1049 Lincoln Road
Ripton, Vermont 05766

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Video of the Protest, June 28

P.O. - A Request from Sally

I will be faxing our petition to the office of Cheryl Hey in NH at 8:00am Monday morning, June 30 (tomorrow) so that she will have it prior to the 10:00am meeting. She's expecting it. If you know of anyone who hasn't seen the petition, who is not getting these emails, please help them if you can by bringing a page to them. I will leave many copies at both the store and town office.

I'm thinking that I could also fax letters from individual residents stating why you believe that Ripton needs to maintain it's Post Office. I suggest keeping these letters short, simple, and professional; a couple of sentences to a half page at most. Folks who have businesses in Ripton should especially be heard from. Use letterhead if you have it. I believe that the impact of numbers of signatures on the petition and brief individual statements will be effective and impossible to ignore as these postal authorities sit down to talk about our situation. Details can some later. I will leave an envelope at the store (open 8:00-6:00 today) and outside the town office (available 24 hours) for your letters. Deadline: Monday morning, 7:50 a.m.

While I'm at it, I will also fax the petition and letters to the offices of Welch, Leahy, and Sanders. Anyone else? If some of you can help me round up fax numbers, I'll send them anywhere they need to go!


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Post Office protests on June 28th

Today was the last day of the Ripton Post Office, and the first day of our community protest against its closure.

We gathered at the General Store, as per email and blog planning. We picked up our mail for the last time, bought coffee and snacks from Sue and Dick, listened to Bonnie finish her final sorting, and shared information about the latest developments.

Things were still unclear. When would the boxes be hauled down the mountain? Was this whole mess supposed to still be temporary? Could we volunteer to staff the Ripton office? We heard that some folks only learned last night that their box, their community post office was to be closed. Par for the course of this affair, as the USPS communicates poorly to us.

Learning that Bonnie was to drive the key to our office down the mountain, rather than an East Middlebury office come up to us, we drove down route 125 together, a sprawling caravan. We arrived at the East Middlebury Post Office during the last half-hour its lobby was scheduled to be open, and... tried to check our mail. And stood around, smiling at the somewhat terrified, somewhat confused locals.

Why were the locals confused? Because this move, this drastic increase in the amount of work their post office was to do was news to them. Did I mention bad postal service communication?

At 11:30 the East Middlebury office closed up for the weekend, as per schedule, and we headed back up the mountain.

What next? Apparently various postal officials are meeting on Monday. Definitely the community is meeting on Tuesday. Our boxes will be moved... Monday? It's unclear. Also on Monday, we're to start getting our mail down the mountain. So we'll begin our daily caravan rides, burning a lot of carbon, paying more for gas, adding to the East Middlebury's office's work, and missing that one point of Ripton community we used to hold.

Bravo to everyone from Ripton who participated in today's event.

More images, stories, and conversation coming in this spot.

(last photo by Joanna Shipley; previous three by Bryan Alexander)

Well met in East Middlebury

Our gathering met at the Ripton General Store, then moved down to East Middlebury's Post Office.
More comments and images as they come in.

Getting the mail on a Saturday morning

Ripton residents may pick up their mail at the East Middlebury Post Office starting today, June 28th, as we learned yesterday.

So some of us will be doing just that, about 11 a.m.

Friday, June 27, 2008

P.O. Update

Bonnie and Bob each had a conversation with Sean Donahue within the past 15 minutes and their understanding is that Bob will be bring the Saturday mail up as usual, and Bonnie will be here to sort it. Then at 11:00, Sean will arrive to take Bonnie's keys and officially take back control of our office. Sean is aware of the meeting on Monday morning of the Regional Postal Service representatives, but he maintains that he will be here later on Monday to remove the boxes.

I just called Peter Welch's office looking for Rachel, who has been so helpful. She was gone for the day, but I relayed a message to the person who answered the phone. I said that we are very confused - we have mixed messages about where we are to receive our mail in the morning, and Sean Donahue is still threatening to remove the boxes. I was told that according to the information from the Regional Postal Service, Ripton mail will be available at the East Middlebury PO beginning tomorrow, and that we must present a photo ID to get our mail, and if we send a family member in our place, we must supply a letter giving that person permission to pick our our mail.

I think there is good reason for many people to be confused in the morning.

P.O. UPDATE 4:30 pm June 27, 2008

Rachel from Peter Welch’s office just called and asked that I share this information since she only had time to make one call.

She said that they have been assured that the mailboxes will not be removed on Saturday and the Department is meeting on Monday to determine their next steps. IT IS POSSIBLE, HOWEVER, THAT THE BOXES COULD BE REMOVED ON MONDAY. So, someone should volunteer to contact Cynthia Thurston on Monday to find out. Rachel said that there will be a public meeting at some point to explore possibilities, but she wasn’t sure when that would be. Options as they see it include rehiring a Clerk, moving the PO to another spot in Ripton (not sure why??!!), closing it all together, or home delivery.

Ripton residents may pick up their mail in E. Middlebury beginning tomorrow. Please note there is a new policy stating you need to show picture ID to pick up your mail at the window. If the window or PO is closed, but someone is evidently in the PO we just need to knock on the closed window and someone will be happy to get our mail for us. If a Riptonite can’t get down the mountain, they may write a letter giving a neighbor or family member permission to pick up their mail.

She said they realize they have broken policy or federal regs by not giving us enough notice. I asked: since it’s now illegal to stop services, why can’t they reassign someone from another post office to do Ripton until they either figure it out or comply with federal regs. She didn’t have an answer for that one.

So – that’s all I have heard from the powers that be today. If anyone hears the boxes will be moving on Monday, please let the rest of us know so we can protest.

Be well,


Post Office Update from Sally - Meeting July 1

There will be a meeting at the Community House Tuesday evening at 6:00 pm, July 1 for our community to discuss the post office situation. This is an opportunity to brainstorm about what we want and by the end hopefully have a plan to start making it happen - subsequent meetings could include guests from the outside to further those goals. Alice has found some relevant federal statutes ,and I'll see if there's any more, that might guide us.

I just talked to Cheryl Hey, the regional "retail" specialist for VT/NH postal region (she is in NH), because she will be part of the meeting on Monday to tell her a couple of things. First I said that we do have some local people who will be willing to share the job of keeping the mail sorted daily if need be until we get the proper staffing we're supposed to get. I also said that we are very much interested in knowing what it would require to get our "regular" post office status back. When I said to her that we've had a post office in Ripton since the mid 1800's and it's only relatively recently (12-15 yrs) that it's been a contract office, she said "Oh, wow" like that was news to her.

If you haven't done so, please sign the petition that is both at the store and outside the town office. Take a page to others to sign if you want and bring it back. I would like to fax the petition to Cheryl's office prior to the meeting.

Thanks, Sally

E. Middlebury Post Office Sat. AM

It looks as if we have a "stay of deconstruction" - Peter Welch's office has stopped the removal of the boxes for now. There is a meeting scheduled for this Monday at 10:00 of the regional postal directors (not sure exactly who they all are) where our situation will be discussed and hopefully some determination made as to a next step. In the meantime, if we are understanding our June 26 notice from Sean Donahue correctly, our mail will be available at the East Middlebury PO by 10:30 am every Monday through Saturday beginning tomorrow. Saturday window hours are 8:30am - 11:30am which gives us just an hour to get our mail.

Seems to me a reasonable time to go would be 11:00 am - you know, give them an extra half hour to sort all that mail and still be done with window service by 11:30 - and since we all probably have individual errands to run afterward we should all go in separate cars. You get the picture - see you there!

Post Office Petition

Please sign the petition at the Ripton Store or outside the Town Offices which urges officials to keep our Post Office open. The text is below:


We, the undersigned citizens of the town of Ripton, Vermont, respectfully object to the closing of our Contract Post Office. We received official notice in our mail boxes about the closing at approximately 4:00 p.m. on June 26, 2008 that mail will no longer be delivered to our office as of 10:00 a.m. June 27, 2008. In the absence of time to call a meeting to organize our actions, we submit this petition to express our concerns and why we believe our office should remain.

The Ripton Post Office has been in existence since the mid 1800’s. Since the population of Ripton has been steadily increasing since 1970, there is always a waiting list for mail boxes from new residents. For a rural town, our local post office provides an important sense of community; it provides a place for townspeople to casually meet and a place for postings of local services, events and public meetings. We have three schools, including the Middlebury College Breadloaf School, and several service businesses and manufacturing businesses which rely upon prompt mail delivery and outgoing services. Furthermore, we feel that maintaining our small post office in the town center is more convenient and efficient over the alternative of rural delivery over 30 miles of mountainous roads; and to require over 200 households to drive 4 miles down a mountainous road to retrieve mail creates an unnecessary hazard and expense for our citizens.

Therefore, we request the opportunity to work with the United State Postal Service to preserve our right to maintain this longstanding tradition in our town. Thank you.

Ripton floods: community tv footage of legislative tour

There's an excellent video of the recent Ripton floods up on the Middlebury Community Television site.

It's a huge file, so give it some time to download.

(thanks to Willem Jewett)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Speaking with East Middlebury Post Office

I just got off the phone with Marlene, sole worker today at the East Middlebury Post Office.

Several pieces of information:
  • Our address information won't change. That means we keep our zip codes and PO Box numbers, even as the latter move downhill.
  • We'll be able to pick up our mail over the counter, in person.
  • Sean the postmaster hopes to install our Ripton boxes in an East Middlebury office wall, so we can get access to our mail when there's no desk service.
  • How temporary is this? Marlene had no information.
  • The East Middlebury Post Office remains the best source for information. Middlebury's PO refers all callers to East Middlebury's.
Desk hours for East Middlebury:
Monday through Friday, 8 am -1 pm; 2-5 pm
Saturday: 8:30 - 11:30 am
(Yes, these hours might change)

PS: here's Bonnie's farewell notice, seen in the General Store:

Here's the office notice.

(photo by Ceredwyn Alexander)

Follow up on Post Office #3 - It's Temporary!

I just got off the phone with Rachel from Peter Welch’s office. She spoke with the Regional Director and told me that they guarantee that this is only temporary. I asked why they had to physically move the boxes and not just handle it the way they did the last time and she said she didn’t know other than they are short staffed. I asked if they could sort the mail in East Midd and then close that branch for 2 hours while the post master brought the mail up and placed it in boxes in Ripton. She thought that was a reasonable request and would see what the regional director thought.

At any rate, she said they are coordinating with Ripton to hold a meeting soon, so we should all plan to attend. They want to discuss all options with us at that time. She also said to let her know if we need anything else.

That’s all I know….

Joyce Dicianna

Follow up on Post Office #2

I am following up on this. I called the woman in Rutland (Cynthia Thurston) yesterday and left a message. I called again today and left another message. Finally I called the Rutland Postmaster because I was afraid that Cynthia might be on vacation. He told me he would be seeing her later today. I gave him the relevant information, and he was quite amazed. I should be hearing back from Cynthia after he speaks with her.

Warren had offered to contact Peter Welch. I had suggested waiting until I had some specifics, but it's fine that that ball is already rolling. I am going to be "spearheading" this for the Select Board so if anyone has information, etc. please let me know.

I did call to talk to Sean and was told he is on medical leave. Overall, the dealings on contract PO's go through an office in Kansas.

Laurie Cox

Post Office Follow-up #1

Because I’m the curious type, I have called the Rutland Regional Post Master (Cynthia Thurston) at 802-747-4529 to inquire about this whole situation and future of our service. She was not in; I left a message to call me.

I then called Cong. Peter Welch’s office in Burlington and discovered he has a staff person in charge of postal affairs (Rachel). Their office number is 802-652-2450 if anyone needs it. I explained what little I knew of the situation, explained that for some of our elderly residents or those who work in the home, this would be an incredible inconvenience and asked her if she could help us understand the future plan for our PO or if she could provide any information whatsoever. She is going to call the Director of the VT / NH Postal Services and get back to me with what she finds out.

Let’s work together to keep our mail services in Ripton!

Joyce Dicianna

Closing the Ripton Post Office: a document

The official closure notice:

(photo by Ceredwyn Alexander)

Ripton Post Office to Close!

I was asked to send out word (from the Town Clerk) that the Ripton Post Office will be temporarily moved to East Middlebury soon. If you have a Ripton PO Box, be sure to pick up your mail at the Ripton Store location SOON. It is anticipated that boxes will be moved to East Middlebury later this week and that we will receive our mail there. There is no window service in Ripton as of now.

This is being called an "Emergency Closure." We still have our addresses and zip codes, and hopefully, will have our post office open again before long.

Sorry for the bad news, especially for those of you who are having trouble even getting out to get mail. On that topic, property damage estimate reports are still being accepted at the at the Town Office. There is a mailbox outside the office door, if you want to avoid the US mail or don't make it to the office while it's open. Damage report forms are on the bulletin board outside the Clerk's office and at the town shed.

Alison Joseph

Friday, June 20, 2008

Addison Independent on the Ripton rains

The Addison Independent reports on the Ripton water damage.
“All we can do right now is fill in the ruts and get people moving,” said Ripton Road Commissioner Ron Wimett, who with other state and local workers has spent untold hours since Saturday’s rainstorm at the controls of heavy equipment, filling massive craters and gullies carved into the North Branch Road and other rural lanes that could not stand up to the torrential downpour that forced the Middlebury River and its tributaries to hop their respective banks. One estimate indicated more than six inches of rain fell in Ripton during just a few hours Saturday night.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

From Rep. Willem Jewett

I've been doing some work on disaster relief.

It appears that there will be assistance for the town in fixing the roads even if there is no federal disaster designation. This is through the Town Highway Emergency Fund.

However, the federal designation also carries with it assistance for individuals. My understanding as of today is that the trigger is $1,000,000 in damage. There is some distinction which I don't fully understand yet between private and public damage but the long and the
short of things at this point is to make sure that everyone is documenting their losses.

I have also heard that there may be SBA loan funds made available. It would help me to know whether this would be truly helpful and to whom. Please let me know about your particular situations and I would be happy to keep pushing on the SBA program.

Willem Jewett

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Help for Storm Damage

Please keep track of and report storm damage costs to help the Town of Ripton receive financial assistance. You can go to to read up.

It is unclear if the state will meet the financial threshold to qualify for disaster funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. However, individuals and businesses might be eligible for low-interest disaster loans from the Small Business Administration if damages qualify. These loans help cover uninsured losses.

Town Clerk Sally Hoyer has forms at the Town Office, and they are in folder pockets on the bulletin board outside the office door if no one is there.

At the very least, everyone should document damage: write down descriptions, take pictures, track time spent cleaning and repairing, and especially document costs, actual and estimated. If there are no receipts, write it down anyway!

Monday, June 16, 2008

After the storm

Ripton copes with water damage: some families off the Billings Farm Road are cut off by road.

(photos by Ross Elliott)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

USA Today interviews Ripton resident

USA Today interviewed Ripton resident Sue Halpern. The topic is her new book,
Can't Remember What I Forgot: The Good News from the Front Lines of Memory Research (Harmony).

(thanks to Bill Biederman!)

Route 125, North Branch into East Middlebury: closed today

Both Ripton roads into Middlebury - Route 125, and the North Branch Road - have been blocked this morning. Flooding has undercut the roads.

Repairs are underway. In the meantime, please detour through Lincoln.

(thanks to Erik Eriksen)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ripton Farmers Market

Ripton Farmers Market starts June 14!
Every Saturday this the Elementary School
9:30 to 11:00
Sellers Welcome
Come see what your neighbors have growing!

Monday, June 9, 2008

More on the Frost cabin poetry assignment

Even the New York Times notes the Robert Frost cabin poetry punishment assignment story.

Here's an interesting passage, glancing at life in our town:
One lesson was built around “The Road Not Taken,” Frost’s caution on the fateful choices that crop up in the dense woods of life. Harsher still was the choice of “Out, Out,” Frost’s account of a youth’s precious life spilling away in a sawmill accident amid the heedless glories of Vermont.

“They seemed shaken to their foundations,” said Mr. Parini, not that surprised.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

From the VFD

Hello neighbors

As you've probably noticed, the cost of oil and gas is skyrocketing. That's got all of us thinking about how to make do—but it's also got those of us at the Ripton Fire Department thinking about next winter.

We know that the trend towards more home heating with wood is likely to continue. And we know that right now is the time to make sure that those woodstoves will be safe next winter.

Chimney fires are responsible for more fires, more fire deaths, and more property damage than any other kind of heating fuel. They cause five times as many fires as space heaters. Hundreds die every year. If you've never seen a chimney fire, we can tell you how dramatic they can be: a loud roar from the blaze in the chimney, the stove pipe turning cherry red with the heat, and all too often the quick spread of the fire to nearby walls and woodwork with disastrous results.

We're willing to come put out those fires—but we'd much rather they didn't happen in the first place, for your safety and ours too. So we're asking you please to get in touch soon with a local chimney sweep, who should visit once a year at the least in order to clean the creosote that inevitably builds up in your stovepipe and chimney.

There are lists of local chimney sweeps in the yellow pages, or on line at:

Thank you very much,

The Ripton Volunteer Fire Department

P.S.—Don't forget to come to our big barbecue on July 26

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Ripton back in the news

Ripton has received high-flying media attention this week, concerning the Frost cabin and the poetic punishment handed down.

Ripton net back up

The Ripton network is back up, after an outage, thanks to hard work by folks at the Hansens'.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Ripton Broadband network outage

Network outage update: a crucial piece of hardware located at the Hansens' has been knocked loose during construction work.
People are working on it right now, making progress. The network should be back up within a few hours.