READING — United States Senator Jerry Moran stopped in Reading on Friday for the ribbon cutting of the city’s post office.
“It’s been a long wait,” Mayor Kevin Sorenson said. “Just glad to get it back. Everybody’s been wanting it and fighting for it. The rural carriers will still come out of Lebo for now anyways, as far as we know. We’re going to miss that part, but we’re glad to have the post office back.”
The office closed in 2011 following an EF-3 tornado that ripped through the south end of town, destroying homes and businesses on May 21, 2011.
The post office building stood intact, but made the list of offices on the postal service’s chopping block because of the tornado, according to Moran.
“At the time that the tornado occurred, the postal service had already announced the plans to close 130 post offices in Kansas,” Moran said. “Reading was not on the list. My point of view was to make certain that it wasn’t added as a result of the tornado. How sad, how wrong, how unjust it would be to close a post office — that on the merits wasn’t supposed to be closed — but through no fault of their own, through a natural disaster, the postal service decided to close it.”
Moran said that phone calls and emails from his constituents prompted several discussions and meetings with the United States Postmaster General about the closings of offices in the state.
“We worked hard to make sure that as many of those 130 post offices that were intended to be closed didn’t,” Moran said. “Ultimately in most instances, post offices weren’t closed. We convinced the postal service to provide shorter hours, but still retain the post offices.
“The good news in Reading is that the hours are still there, and the office is soon to be open.”
It will still be two weeks before the office is officially open. It will have 100 P.O. boxes to rent, along with providing typical services.
“It’s huge for the community,” Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce President Jeanine McKenna said. “At a time when the postal service was looking at closing down, unfortunately the tornado hit. That was an easy decision for them.
“By the efforts of all of the citizens and Senator Moran, hard work paid off and they’re getting their post office back. It’s a huge accomplishment that many people were involved with.”
George Ford, who carried mail in the Reading area for 30 years beginning in 1959, said that it’s good to see the office opening again.
“Well, it serves the town,” Ford said. “People can get certified mail and stuff like that again in the mornings. That’s great.”
Emily Tucker, a retired postal worker from Topeka, came down for the ribbon cutting as well.
“I grew up in the sand hills in Nebraska and we had the post office in our kitchen,” Tucker said. “My mom was the post master. I’m a fourth-generation postal worker, it’s very important to me. He (Moran) works hard for Kansas people.”
Moran said that basically all communications he had with people were pleas for shorter hours of operation over closing offices, which is what drove the cause.
“It’s especially nice to be here on a day when people are very positive,” Moran said. “This isn’t just about the post office. When you ask me what got me involved in this issue, I describe the circumstances that we’re in.
“The reality is that this became a cause for me because it was a cause for the people of Reading. I’m in lots of towns, clearly many of our communities are struggling for a future. The difference from one town to the next is whether or not there are community leaders that are willing to step forward and make sure that their community has a future.”
Moran said that’s the exact description of the resolve of the people of Reading and Lyon County.
“What I saw here following the tornado was a group of citizens who said ‘this town is going to be around, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that’s the case,” Moran said. “Really the applause, the pat on the back goes to the people of Reading who said ‘we need a post office.’ Being back here, you can see that the community looks better in other ways, not just the post office.”