CORAL — Townspeople from the more southern of two Center Township villages along Route 119 pretty much got their wish at a public meeting hosted this week by the United States Postal Service at the Coral Fire Station.
The postal service invited everyone to comment on whether the government should replace the local post office that burned down in 2016 — kind of a no-brainer decision, in light of the fact that Coral residents have had to drive to Homer City to pick up their mail every day.
They were greeted with word that the decision already has been made and a new post office for ZIP Code 15731 is in the works.
It meant a lot to the firefighters in attendance at the meeting Wednesday evening, because they had been called out March 24, 2016, to battle the flames in the former post office.
It was one of their own, 19-year-old fire company member Aaron Liggett, who was arrested on an arson charge and later pleaded guilty to setting the fire. He was sentenced in April 2017 to serve one to eight years in prison, and was paroled in July.
Firefighter Gary Alsop owned the building that burned and stood manning one of the pump trucks that night as his tenant was virtually put out of business.
The postal service approached the Coral fire department a couple of months ago with the request to be the host site for the public meeting, and the Center Township supervisors had urged the fire company to step forward and offer to put up a new post office next to the fire station, said Fire Chief Justin Smyers said,
“The township reached out because the postal service real estate specialists contacted them inquiring about property available in the area for a post office to be constructed,” Smyers said. “At that point, the postal service contacted me to ask if they could have this ‘community contact’ meeting at the station, and we said yes.
“That’s when our conversation turned to, ‘Hey, we have property, you may be interested in helping us, we may be interested in helping you.’ That’s how our end of the discussion started. ... So this proposal was given to them in advance.”
The postal service agreed with the idea.
“The gentleman last evening said the postal service does prefer doing business with local volunteer fire companies because it’s taking federal money and pumping it into the local volunteer emergency services. I think its going to be a win-win.”
But the apparent plan for a new post office on the fire department’s acreage along First Avenue is not ironclad.
“The decision has not yet been made,” Smyers said. “There’s a 30-day period at this point for anybody in the community to present a proposal to the United States Postal Service and have it given equal weight as ours. Nobody at that meeting had an initial proposal, so at this point we have the only proposed location. But it’s not to say that someone in the community can’t propose something in the next 30 days.”
As to the original post office site, Alsop and his architect “had not come up with a suitable agreement to this point, which led to the post office looking for an alternate location,” Smyers said.