August 5, 2012
The Postal Service has closed another POStPlan post office by emergency suspension. The Postal Service's reassurances to the Postal Regulatory Commission that it wouldn't be doing that don't seem to count for much.
A few days ago, we noted the emergency suspension of the post office in Helen, Maryland. It’s on the POStPlan list, set to be downgraded to two hours a day. The postmaster took the incentive offer and retired on July 31. The next day the local news reported that the office would be closed by emergency suspension on August 17.
Now the herald-mail.com is reporting that the post office in Brownsville, Maryland, has also been closed by emergency suspension. As with Helen, which is about 120 miles away, the postmaster was looking at seeing her office reduced to two hours, and she took the incentive offer and retired on July 31. The post office closed the same day.
The Brownsville office was a Level 11 that had been studied for closure under the Retail Access Optimization Initiative (RAOI). The post office has been located in the home of its retiring postmaster, Mary Ellen Younkins, since 1979. She told the Postal Service that she wanted to end the lease on her last day, July 31, and the lease termination is now being cited as the cause for the emergency suspension.
Brownsville is a very small place, and there may not be many spaces available that could serve as a post office. And there may not be anyone in town who wants to share part of their home with a post office, especially if the postmaster job is for just two hours a day at $11 an hour.
But the Postal Service created this situation, so it shouldn’t be an excuse for an emergency suspension. The Postal Service has known for at least a month that it would be closing the Brownsville post office, but it didn’t bother with a meeting or a survey, and there’s no indication that it looked for someone to replace the postmaster or to find a new location.
The Postal Service’s witness for POStPlan, Jeffrey Day, testified to the PRC that it wouldn’t be suspending POStPlan post offices because of lease issues or postmaster vacancies. The briefs filed by the Postal Service repeat the same promise. Yet that’s exactly what’s happened in both Helen and Brownsville.
Mr. Day and the Postal Service also said on numerous occasions that communities would be given four options — (1) reduced hours or close the post office and (2) use the post office in another town, (3) switch to rural delivery, or (4) open a Village Post Office (a postal counter in a private business like a general store).
The Postal Service said it would decide what to do only after the community expressed its wishes in a survey and town meeting. The Postal Service said it expected that in almost every case, the community would choose to have the hours reduced, and that’s what the Postal Service intended to do.
The folks in Brownsville were never given an opportunity to comment on the four options. They just got a notice in the mail and found a sign on the door of the post office saying it was suspended due to a lease termination.
A few houses down the block, workers contracted by the Postal Service could be seen pouring a cement footer for a cluster box unit.
So there's a fifth option the Postal Service didn't mention — close the post office and replace it with a cluster box.