Closure Concerns

Published 6:00 pm Friday, September 2, 2011

Jefferson County officials and troubledcitizens appeared at a public hearing Thursday night to voice theirconcerns over the possible closing down of their Union Churchcommunity post office.

    Rachel Barnes, one of about 80 people who showed up for the meetingat the Union Church Fire Station, summarized the general sentimentsof all those present to speak with Pamela Lowery, manager ofMississippi Post Office Operations.

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    “If you take away our post office, we won’t have anything,” Barnessaid.

    The U.S. Postal Service, due to lack of revenue to support all ofits postal outlets, is considering shutting down 61 post offices inMississippi.

    Lowery explained the postal service sees no government subsidiesand no tax dollars to support its operations. The revenue itreceives from post office locations comes only from stamps sold,post office boxes rented and packages shipped.

    Union Church Postmaster Kelly Brown said at the hearing that theirpost office has 240 post office boxes available, of which 81 arerented by citizens.

    Lowery said USPS is being forced to respond aggressively to theeconomic woes it is facing by shutting offices that just do notgenerate enough revenue.

    “We’re adjusting about every five months now because of thecontinued decrease in volume and customer use,” Lowery said.

    She said the main reason for the continued disuse of post officesis the availability of electronic communication for people to paybills, receive statements and buy advertisement space online.

    “We’re just trying to streamline costs to survive,” she said.

    After explaining the reasons for the hearing, Lowery opened up thefloor for questions and comments that were recorded to be part of apackage that will be sent off to USPS headquarters in Washington,D.C., for evaluation and final determination of the post office’sfate. The Postal Regulatory Commission can also be contacted

    Jefferson County Sheriff Peter Walker asked if there was anythingelected officials could do from a political standpoint.

    “What can we do to save it?” Walker asked.

    “Probably utilize your post office,” Lowery said.

    The general problem citizens have with the possible closing is nothaving the money or the time to travel to the nearest locations ineither Brookhaven or Meadville.

    Because there are no other businesses in the community of UnionChurch, most people work in surrounding cities.

    Lowery suggested that it is her experience that most people takecare of their post office needs in the place where they work. Ifthe Union Church citizens could restrict all post office use totheir post office, then they might save it that way, she said.

    Roger White, another citizen, said he heard on the news about thepossibility of shutting down post office use on Saturdays so USPScould save money that way.

    “Why can’t we skip Saturdays?” he asked. “I can skip a day of mail,if I can do it Monday through Friday.”

    Lowery said it takes an act of Congress to change the system tofive-day delivery, and a bill for that died last year with asimilar one dying this year.

    Chris Lowe, supervisor for Jefferson County District One, asked whyanother post office in a big city could not be shut down as opposedshutting down the one in Union Church. He said it does not makesense to do a study where bigger cities and smaller towns areincluded together, and that separate studies should have been doneto avoid the kind of outrage from rural citizens that USPS has hadto deal with.

    Lowery responded by saying they only have compiled the listaccording to data from every post office in the state. The onesthat did not make the cut as far as meeting revenue goals areconsidered for closings.

    “How many people have been to the post office in the last week?”Lowery asked.

    Nearly every hand in the crowd went up.

    “Well, see that’s not exactly reflective of our data,” shesaid.

    “Well your data is wrong,” a citizen shouted out amongst the rabblein the fire station.

    At the end of it all, Lowery thanked the crowd for coming out, andexplained that a package would be assembled with the questions andcomments included for USPS headquarters to consider.

    She said there is no timeline for anything yet, but once packagesfrom each location are sent, there is a 60-day waiting period fordecisions to be made, followed by a 30-day appeal period for postoffices that get shut down.

    Barnes cited the importance of the post office to Union Church.

    “The post office is the glue of this community,” Barnes said. “Andshutting it down will be part of the degradation of ourcommunity.”