Rural areas could be hard hit by postal cuts

David Nogueras Nov 2, 2011

Rural areas could be hard hit by postal cuts

David Nogueras Nov 2, 2011

Jeremy Hobson: In Washington today, a bipartisan group of Senators
is expected to unveil legislation to save the U.S. Postal Service.

Not a lot of details yet, but anything would be better than failure for the post office, which is considering some drastic measures to make ends meet — including the closure of some 3700 post offices across the country.

As David Nogueras of Oregon Public Broadcasting reports, that would have a big effect on rural towns.

David Nogueras: Homesteaders settled the small, landmark town of Fort Rock, in central Oregon’s high desert in 1905. Jack Swisher, president of the Fort Rock Valley Historical Society, says the town post office opened in 1908. A man named Thomas Rhoton applied to be Fort Rock’s first postmaster.

Jack Swisher: That put us on the map. He was approved for that. So from March 9th, 1908, until the present time, we’ve had a post office here.

But many are now worried Fort Rock’s only post office might soon be relegated to the history books.

Shari Blackman: I need stamps please. Stamps? OK.

Shari Blackman says with only a general store, a family restaurant and a tavern in Fort Rock, closing the post office would be a big deal.

Blackman: I think it will have a heck of an impact on our area because as you can tell, we only have three things in town.

Blackman says she’s worried about how she’ll get her mail each day. Door-to-door delivery isn’t available for everybody out here, and the nearest post office to Fort Rock is more than 30 miles away.

Out in the parking lot, Paul Bowers recoils at the mention of a possible closure.

Paul Bowers: This is not only a post office; this is where all of the farmers’ wives come and have a meeting house everyday whenever the mail comes in. This might be the heart and soul of the whole community.

The post office is quick to point out that just making the list doesn’t guarantee closure. The Postal Service will look at each office individually to determine if it can provide adequate service without an actual facility.

Jack Swisher of the Historical Society says this is about more than just delivering mail and magazines. He says some business owners here are already looking to sell. Should the post office close, he says, it would rip a hole in the town’s social fabric.

Swisher: I think we’re going to lose the town. If we lose the post office, we’ve lost something big.

The Post Office says closures could come as early as this December.

In Bend, Ore., I’m David Nogueras for Marketplace.

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