By Dan Hust
SULLIVAN COUNTY Residents of a number of Sullivan County communities facing the loss of their post offices gathered recently to discuss their concerns with U.S. Postal Service officials.
Neal Fitzpatrick, manager of post office operations in the area, brought a team with him to listen to locals’ comments and questions regarding the Kenoza Lake, Obernburg, North Branch and Fremont Center post offices.
Those facilities are being reviewed for possible closure, said Fitzpatrick, because a computer-generated list indicated they aren’t creating revenue above $27,000 a year.
Kenoza Lake, for example, generated just $16,000 in 2010, down from $23,000 in 2009.
“That’s a pretty substantial drop, but those numbers are reflective of the postal system as a whole,” he told a group of Kenoza Lake PO supporters inside the hamlet’s Methodist Church.
More than half of that office’s postal boxes are rented out, but the revenue is calculated from over-the-counter sales, not the volume of mail.
Email, online bill-paying and stamps bought outside of postal facilities have all cut into the system’s bottom line, said Fitzpatrick revenues are currently $10 billion beneath expenses nationwide.
And the hits keep coming. Fitzpatrick indicated Social Security checks may be issued electronically in the future, eliminating the need to mail paper checks.
“We just aren’t mailing what we used to mail,” he explained, “... to the tune of billions of dollars. ... The decreases are happening faster than we can react to.”
But residents replied that the post office is too integral for their small towns to lose.
“You take the post office, you take the town,” Kenoza Lake resident Greg Haas told Fitzpatrick.
Haas even offered to pay more for his postal box just to keep the office open.
Alan Rajlevsky, another Kenoza Lake resident, added he’d eschew other mailing companies to help.
“I’m done with UPS today,” he pledged. “I’m going to ship it all through Jerry [Kinney, the Kenoza Lake postmaster].”
Fitzpatrick appreciated the sentiments but indicated the matter is far more complex.
“If people want to pay more for service, that’s something we should do,” he affirmed, “but we can’t just arbitrarily do that.”
Congress must approve cost hikes, he explained.
So he urged residents to contact their federal representatives to aid the postal system.
“The best way to really save your post office,” he said, “you have to let people know the impact on your community.”
And, of course, go in and spend money in your local office.
“All you can do is start using the postal service,” he urged.
If post offices are closed, Fitzpatrick said they might still exist in a virtual sense. For example, North Branch residents might retain a North Branch address and ZIP code, but have their mail delivered by the Jeffersonville post office.
Few seemed in favor of that option, however, having watched these small towns struggle mightily in the face of recession.
“If people lose sight of doing things locally,” assessed resident and Delaware Town Board member John Gain, “that money goes elsewhere.”