"I can't imagine Sturkie without the Sturkie Post office," resident Joe York said recently.
York and many others have been lamenting the news that seven more Fulton County area post offices have been added to the list of rural post offices the U.S. Postal Service believes should be closed.
The Postal Service released its Expanded Study List of endangered post offices on Tuesday, July 26.
So far, none of Oregon County's four post offices (Alton, Thayer, Koshkonong and Myrtle) are on the study list. Neighboring Brandsville, Moody and Pottersville in Howell County were on an earlier list and being studied for closure.
In June, the Postal Service held a town hall meeting in Brandsville, attended by more than 50 residents, many who spoke to oppose the proposed closing in the town of 174 residents.
Statewide, 167 post offices are on the new list, including Eminence in Shannon County.
In Arkansas, post offices in Sturkie, Camp, Elizabeth, Wiseman, Guion, Dolph, Sidney and Ravenden Springs are on the new list to be studied for closure.
As the Postal Service tries to stem losses that reached $8.5 billion last year, it is looking at closing 3,700 post offices that take in less than $27,500 a year and have limited customer traffic.
Much of the loss can be attributed to more Americans shopping and paying bills online, communicating via email and the Internet and less junk mail due to the economy.
The day after the Postal Service released the new list, U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., issued a statement emphasizing the importance of post offices in rural communities.
"We rely on our post offices in a way different from people in suburban and urban areas," Emerson stated.
Emerson said the Postal Service needs to fix its business model without resorting to closing small offices or ending Saturday delivery, which, if approved, would create nine three-day mail interruptions due to federal holidays.
"The combination of these two strategies mean that Americans in rural communities, especially senior citizens and disabled individuals, will have to travel great distances to get their mail," Emerson said. "Bills, checks, medicines and cards from loved ones are some of the most important materials to travel regularly through our postal system."
Emerson said cut-backs would have the most serious ramifications in rural areas, which represent less than one percent of the Postal Service's cost of doing business.
Last spring, the Postal Service identified a smaller list of post offices it hoped to close, including Gepp, Pineville and Wideman in the Salem, Ark., area.
Citizens in Gepp and Pineville are still trying to convince the Postal Service their offices should remain open. While it appears the Widema post office will close, a date has yet to be set for it to cease operations.
"Some people in Sturkie have talked about organizing to try to save the post office, but they don't know if it will do any good," York said.
York may have stronger feelings than most about the Sturkie Post office, since his mother, Lela Fay, ran it for more than 40 years.
"It was definitely a big part of our lives," said York, since, for many years, the post office was in the general store his family ran on Sturkie Road. York's brother, Stan, built and owns the current post office building, behind the old store location.
Lisa Toliver-Gaye, the Customer Service Coordinator for the Arkansas district, said the process of studying the new closure list will take several months.
A study will gather data to confirm each post office generates little revenue and serves a small number of customers. The data will be sent to the southwest regional office and postal headquarters for review. If the closure recommendation is upheld, a community meeting will be held for each post office to gauge public reaction and a decision will be made.
According to Toliver-Gaye, if a final decision is made to close a post office, citizens will still have the right to file an appeal.
If rural post offices are closed, home delivery service will continue. But, customers will have to travel to another post office in the area for post office boxes or to mail packages or buy stamps.
If rural post offices in north central Arkansas are closed, their customers will be served by larger postal stations at Salem, Viola, Melbourne, Calico Rock and Mountain Home.
Those who now use the Brandsville Post Office will get their mail from the West Plains Post Office, 12 miles north, or can mail items from Koshkonong, seven miles south.
New way to operate
"It's no secret that the postal service is looking to change the way we do a lot of things, and it's driven by a large part by what makes sense financially and what makes sense for our customers and the communities that we support," said Postmaster Patrick Donahue, in releasing the Expanded Access Study List.
In some communities where post offices will be closed, the Postal Service will maintain a presence through what it calls the Village Post Office. It is a self-service machine, similar to an ATM, which would sell stamps and accept some flat-rate packages for mailing. The Village Post Office machines could be placed in local businesses, such as grocery stores and pharmacies.
According to the Postal Service, 35 percent of its retail revenue already comes from stamps and other products it sells in retail chains, grocery stores and office supply stores. Its usps.com online store, which offers 24/7 service, is also growing in popularity.
As if to say "get used to fewer post offices," Postmaster Donahue added, "Our customer's habits have made it clear that they no longer require a physical post office to conduct most of their postal business."
With the new list of possible closures, more than 179 post offices in Arkansas and 167 in Missouri are being studied for closure.
Nationwide, more than 3,700 post offices are on the chopping block, which is more than 10 percent of the 32,000 retail offices it currently operates.