On Dec. 13, the United States Postal Service announced that, “In response to a request made by multiple U.S. Senators, (the USPS) has agreed to delay the closing or consolidation of any Post Office or mail processing facility until May 15, 2012,” read the organization’s website. “The Postal Service will continue all necessary steps required for the review of these facilities during the interim period, including public input meetings.”
The Postal Service “hopes this period will help facilitate the enactment of comprehensive postal legislation. Given the Postal Service’s financial situation and the loss of mail volume, the Postal Service must continue to take all steps necessary to reduce costs and increase revenue,” read the release.
Currently, the Grassy Creek Post Office serves some 500 local residents and processes just under 1,000 pieces of mail per day. The facility houses 38 post office boxes, 22 of which are currently rented out, or about 58 percent.
Grassy Creek residents were told by the Postal Service during an August meeting they had until Nov. 2 to submit their opinions for comment; the Postal Service would then make the decision to keep or close the office. After that time, residents would be notified whether the office would be maintained or close, and an appeals process would then be initiated that would allow the community to voice its opinion on the decision.
Grassy Creek residents, in an effort to keep their post office, began a petition that was ultimately signed by over 20 percent of Grassy Creek residents earlier this fall. The community also began a letter writing campaign designed to influence Representative Virginia Foxx, the Ashe County Board of Commissioners, and Interim Ashe County Manager Pat Mitchell.
The Postal Service has been considering numerous options to make its services more competitive in the digital age, and cut services, like rural post offices, that operate at a loss. As more businesses utilize the Internet for their communications, first class mail has taken a hit. Combined with ever more competitive package delivery services by UPS and FedEx, the USPS lost $5.1 billion in fiscal year 2011 (Oct. 1, 2010-Sept. 30, 2011).
The Postal Service hopes to save some $200 million by eliminating some as yet unknown number of post offices, according to Postal Service Communications Coordinator Monica Robbs.
Grassy Creek’s post office was designated for possible closure after looking at revenue generation, revenue trends over the past four years, customer accessibility to other locations within a specific geographical area, and operating costs and savings that would come from the elimination of the location.
When asked whether the Postal Service had any plans to eliminate Saturday service, Monica Robbs said there were some proponents within the service that would like to see Saturday service cut, and the Postal Service has sponsored legislation in Congress that would allow them the flexibility to end Saturday service, something their congressional mandate disallows.
Despite the announcement that Grassy Creek would get to keep their post office through at least next spring, some residents feel like it’s just a matter of time before the office is closed.
“I think they’ve already decided to close it,” said Gary Clawson, Grassy Creek resident and owner of State Line Store. “I really don’t think there’s anything we can do to stop it.”