Some patrons of the U.S. Post Office in McAlester feel like they're having to jump a hurdle to mail a letter.

That's because when they encountered construction fencing shutting off the sidewalk to the building's Fifth Street entrance, they've opted to hop over railing to access the building.

Curtis Parham is among those who decided to climb over the railing.

"I didn't realize it was up," he said Wednesday of the constriction chain-link fence cutting off direct access to the post office from the Fifth Street entrance.

He decided to climb over the railing "because I was already here."

Others have decided to walk through an alleyway behind the post office building.

Still others chose to reenter their vehicles and drive around to the Sixth Street entrance to Washington Avenue, which is still open, and park on the building's north side.

Workers temporarily closed the west side access from Fifth Street because of the project that includes construction of a traffic roundabout at the Fifth Street and Washington Avenue intersection.

Included in the project is new curb and guttering and the replacement of water, sewer and storm water infrastructure. Resurfacing of Washington Avenue between Fifth and Sixth Streets is included, as well as moving the parking spaces on the north side of the post office three feet closer to the building.

Whether they chose to climb, walk the alleyway or drive to the Sixth Street entrance, none of the postal patrons seemed pleased with the situation.

Upon encountering the chain-link fence blocking his access when he wanted to simply mail a letter, Jim Stizza said "I don't understand it."

Neither did any of the other postal patrons with whom the News-Capital spoke on Wednesday.

Near traffic jams occurred several times, especially when long pickup trucks were trying to back out of their parking places on opposite sides of Fifth Street. At the same time, other drivers were making U turns in the middle of Fifth Street so they could drive around to where the post office's north side on Washington Avenue could still be accessed from Sixth Street.

Climbing over the railing is not an easy task for most people, since the railing is atop a sidewalk several inches above the ground. Also, the slats in the metal railing are so close together that it's not easy for everyone to get their feet between them.

Getting back on the ground after leaving the post office means dropping for the above-mentioned several inches until the climber's feet hits the ground.

Post Master Stacey Phillips had "no comment" about the situation — but post office patrons had plenty to say.

"Is that feasible or right to make me have to walk around the building?" asked Allan Hinton. He decided to climb over the railing because "that's the only option I have.

"When the state builds roads, they let you know it advance," he said. "They could have left a walkway. There's a lot of ways around it.

"Better planning and common sense would have took care of these issues," said Hinton.

Another patron, Jackie Pendleton, said "They should have left a gate."

"Billy" Graham asked "Who's responsible for this idiotic mess?" When the traffic roundabout was mentioned, he asked "Why the hell does McAlester need a traffic roundabout?"

Bill Dale took one look at the distance from the railing to the ground and decided to drive around to the Sixth Street entrance.

Lewis Simpson also climbed over the railing, but didn't sound too happy about it.

"This don't make no sense," he said. "They should take this down."

If the situation has been unpleasant for post office patrons, it hasn't been pleasant for the construction crew, either.

"We've been cussed at, yelled at," said Cameron Boydston, of Built Right Construction, which submitted the $599,719 winning bid for the project.

He said installing the construction fencing was necessary so a new concrete sidewalk can be poured.

This whole curb had to change for the roundabout," he said. 

Infrastructure improvements on that portion of the project have already been completed, including installation of new water, sewer and storm water lines, as well as three new manholes.

Boydston said the project is going good, despite a few unanticipated issues.

"We've run into a lot of unexpected rock," he said.

Boydston hoped to have the work that caused the temporary blockage to the Fifth Street pedestrian entrance to be completed by next week.

"It should be back open Monday," he said.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com

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