For the first time in several years, the bells of The Salvation Army have been silenced at post office locations around the city due to the postmaster’s enforcement of a longstanding rule.
Capt. Beau Perez of The Salvation Army said, recently, Postmaster Karla Murphy asked one of the organization’s bell ringers to leave a post office, citing a postal regulation that says “soliciting alms and contributions … or impeding access to or departure from Post Offices are prohibited on Postal Service property.”
In response, Perez contacted the offices of Sen. Tom Udall, which consulted with officials in Washington, D.C., and the offices of Sen. Jeff Bingaman.
The offices found that the rule was not new, Perez said. However, until now, it has never been enforced in Roswell.
“Community organizations have gathered at the post office and done solicitations for decades,” he said. “We’ve been ringing the bell for more than 40 years.”
The post office has been a prime location that has brought the organization much of its donations throughout the years, Perez said.
In the post office, located at 415 N. Pennsylvania Ave., a poster that features the rule is available on the community bulletin board.
Murphy, who recently became postmaster, was not available for comment. However, Paul Pantoja, who is serving as postmaster in her absence, said the enforcement of the rule is part of an effort to get Roswell in line with national regulations.
“It’s a rule that’s always been in place,” he said. “We’ve allowed (donation soliciting) in the past, but that does not make it right.
“It’s just a thing where you get to a certain point and you’ve got to start (over) somewhere.”
The rule does allow for commercial or nonprofit organizations that have a contract with the post office to hold activities. Perez said he would like to create a general contract that any nonprofit could use. In the meantime, he hopes his organization can recoup the loss of any donations through sponsorship and community support for its bell ringing world record attempt, scheduled to start Dec. 11.