Granville fights closure of its post office

GRANVILLE — In its most recent attempt to control costs, the United States Postal Service has singled out a host of post offices across the nation — including Granville and 13 others in Vermont — for potential closure.
After spending the next few months soliciting public feedback in each of the 3,600 locations under the microscope nationwide, the USPS will decide which post offices it will close.
Granville’s post office, which operates 40 hours per week with postmaster Nancy Demers and one assistant on staff, will be one of those offices undergoing what the USPS is calling an “Expanded Access” study. If slated for closure, the office would probably be replaced with a local business designated to provide basic postal services.
“We don’t expect them all to close,” said Tom Rizzo, northern New England spokesperson for USPS. “We’ll study them on a case-by-case basis.”
If the majority of those singled out did close, however, Rizzo said USPS as a whole would see a savings of approximately $200 million solely from the reductions in full-time, staffed offices. He said there would be no reduction in delivery or pickup service in affected towns.
But on Wednesday morning, Granville town clerk Kathy Werner said she’d heard a great deal of opposition to closing the local post office from town residents. If the Granville office closes, the next closest post office location would be in Hancock.
“People are not in favor of it, because it’s one more thing that we’re losing,” said Werner. “We lost our school, now we’re losing our post office. I know I’m not in favor of it.”
Following a public input request by selectboard chair Cheryl Sergeant last Thursday, several town residents wrote emails expressing their concern.
“It saddens me that yet another piece of our community would disappear all for the mighty dollar … the schools, churches and now the post offices?” wrote Victoria Crowne.
“It is not just a post office but the livelihood of several of our beloved townspeople.”
Rizzo said Granville’s post office and the others on the list have been eyed closely for some time now.
“The post offices on the list are offices that … have very low foot traffic and a very low workload,” he said. “We think that these are offices that, generally speaking, are open far longer than necessary.”
Rizzo said, closed locations would be replaced with Village Post Offices — local businesses that contract with the USPS to provide basic services like stamp sales and flat-rate shipping to customers.
The practice of contracting out services is not new for the postal service. Already, postal customers can find basic mailing services at some local businesses, and some grocery stores and ATMs offer stamps. Rizzo said 35 percent of USPS business is conducted at an expanded location.
On top of that, he said, more and more customers are turning to usps.com for their home and business postal needs.
“It’s a different world today,” he said. “People are shopping differently than they did even 20 years ago.”
Rizzo said demands on the postal service have changed over the years, and with those demands, the structure of the postal service has also changed. The number of post offices nationally have fallen from 71,000 in 1900 to 32,000 today, despite a larger population.
He added, however, that the other locations that provide limited postal services are important to note.
“Expanded access means anything other than a brick and mortar post office,” he said. “We have many expanded access locations that didn’t exist five years ago.”
Vermont’s congressional delegation was quick to register its complaints with the list and the 14 Vermont locations that made the list.
“Post offices in a rural state like Vermont are not just post offices — they are often the heart and soul of the town — and they must not be closed down,” wrote Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. in a letter to USPS commissioners.
While the delegation acknowledged the financial straits of the postal service, they questioned the legality of the decision to close small rural locations, citing provision in federal law that states that “no small post office shall be closed solely for operating at a deficit, it being the specific intent of the Congress that effective postal services be insured to residents of both urban and rural communities.”
Rizzo said USPS acknowledges its obligation to serve rural and urban communities, but that it must account for other pressures as well.
“At the same time, we are obligated to operate in a fiscally responsible manner for the benefit of the American public,” said Rizzo. “We have no choice but to address the low foot traffic and extremely low workloads in most of these small offices in order to preserve the nation’s postal system.”
He added that the Village Post Offices will step in to provide “easy and expanded access to our most popular services” to those in communities where post offices have closed.
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at andreas@addisonindependent.com.

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