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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Rural post office closings put on hold

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Residents of two more rural communities in Fulton County have made pleas to remove their post offices from the U.S. Postal Service closure list.

But the only good news they heard at the December meetings was that the Postal Service has agreed to delay any further post office closings until May 15, to give some time for Congress to help come up with a plan to deal with massive postal debt problems.

"We had a great turnout," said Merium Eades of Elizabeth. "The church (Elizabeth Baptist Church) was full, and there were chairs in the aisles and people standing in the kitchen and even outside."

Eades said the large turnout of around 100 people at the Dec. 15 meeting with postal officials is proof that the Elizabeth Post Office is important to the community and well used, and residents will fight to keep it open.

"The man from the Postal Service did most of the talking to let us know how we would have to change our lives to get our mail or money orders or other services," said Eades. "We kept pointing out that the post office in Henderson, that we would have to use, is too far away. We have a lot of elderly and disabled people here in Elizabeth that depend on the post office, and even get their medications (mailed) there."

Eades said residents still had comments and questions when, after about an hour and fifteen minutes, the Postal Service representative abruptly told the crowd he was ending the meeting, because it had gone past its allotted time.

More than 30 residents turned out on Dec. 20 for the Postal Service meeting in Camp. Residents there were told small, money losing post offices must close to help the Postal Service rein in a five-billion dollar 2011 debt, caused as fewer people use the post office in the computer age. But citizens insisted their post office is an important community service, that needs to continue to be offered.

While the Postal Service has agreed to delay any more post office closings until May 15, it is continuing to hold community hearings, complete studies and make recommendations as to whether each post office on the closure list should be closed or remain open.

If post offices in Elizabeth and Camp receive closure recommendations when their studies are completed, residents will have the right to appeal.

"I am hopeful we made a good case to keep the Elizabeth Post Office open," said Eades. "We went to the meeting to let it be known that we are not happy and will fight to keep the post office open. We will definitely file an appeal if we have to."

Lawmakers in both the U.S. House and Senate are working on bills aimed at dealing with the Postal Service's debt, and to avoid cuts in the level of service people and businesses receive.

Besides closing 3,600 post offices around the country, the Postal Service wants to shut down 250 mail processing plants and slow down the delivery of first class mail.

The National Association of Letter Carriers believes Congress will intervene, now that it realizes just how serious Postal Service problems are.

"This is a positive step (stopping closings until mid-May), provided the parties use the time to put together a positive plan for the future, including ways to grow the business as well as efficiencies that make sense," said Fredric Rolando of the Letter Carriers Association.

First District Congressman Rick Crawford sees the moratorium on closures as a positive sign.

Crawford has filed a bill seeking to prevent the closing of post offices that do not have an alternative post office within eight miles by public roads.

Crawford has attracted support from other Representatives who serve rural areas, and agree with him that rural post offices are being unfairly singled out.

Crawford points out that the Postal Service wants to close 211 Arkansas post offices, and more than 100 of them are located in his mostly rural district, which covers north central and northeast Arkansas.

"It is a shame they want to take this (post office) from rural people," said Eades, whose family has lived in the Elizabeth-Viola area for generations. "My grandmother used to walk to the post office. It has always been there. The community has always needed it."

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Already the closures have caused problems. When a "Priority" envelope mailed from a neighboring state takes over 14 days (and was missent 3 times by the postal service) is a regular occurance, there is more wrong than small post offices. The USPS need to get their act together or they are going to lose more business. I'm a small business owner. I ship product all over the country, and it's getting ridiculous to have to resend orders because the postal service loses it or doesn't deliver it in a timely manner. Hopefully, the residence of Elizabeth and Camp will be able to keep their post offices!

-- Posted by goatgirl on Sat, Jan 7, 2012, at 6:31 PM

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