Shuster's 'open office hours' aim to resolve constituents' issu

July 13, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

MERCERSBURG, PA. - Fewer than 10 people turned out for their congressman's "open office hours" Thursday in Franklin County.

A district representative of U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., made himself available in Mercersburg Borough Hall from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., promising to seek solutions to problems or issues that constituents have concerning the federal government.

Brent Gates said he has held similar functions in Cambria, Huntingdon, Fulton and Fayette counties in recent weeks.

Sometimes a dozen people visit; sometimes none, he said.

"We're able to help most folks out," Gates said.

Issues often concern Social Security, passport woes, immigration or American flag requests, he said.

Shuster's press secretary, Jeff Urbanchuk, described the open office hours as a "mobile office."

"We have a district that's geographically huge. Being able to get out of the district office into a community for an hour a week or biweekly allows us to serve those areas," Urbanchuk said.


"We've done this in the past, and we're starting them up again," he said.

The Ninth District includes 15 counties in Central Pennsylvania.

"The last time we had office hours in Franklin County were in the spring, by the congressman himself," Gates said.

The biggest misconception, he said, is that constituents expect a "quick fix," while the resolutions often take time.

Constituents are frequently looking for help with passports due to delays with processing, Gates and Urbanchuk said.

"We urge them to take a look at our Web site ( that has a message on the front page about passports," Urbanchuk said.

Through Sept. 30, citizens who have applied for but not received passports can temporarily cross certain borders with proof of application and identity, the message states.

The district office can be reached at 800-854-3035. The Chambersburg office, which reportedly averages 1,000 to 1,300 calls a month, is available at 717-264-8308.

Open office hours are announced through local media, Gates said.

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