published Monday, August 1st, 2011

Chattanooga post office closures hinge on several factors


by Andrew Pantazi
Locals enter the post office at 1101 W. 40th St. in St. Elmo, which is one of several area postal sites that soon may close.
Locals enter the post office at 1101 W. 40th St. in St. Elmo, which is one of several area postal sites that soon may close.
Photo by Alex Washburn.
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Leondra Lloyd lives less than a mile from the South Chattanooga post office near St. Elmo and dropped by Thursday to mail a bill payment.

She may not be able to do that for much longer. The post office, along with five others nearby, could shut down as soon as December.

"This is where I go to do my business," the 42-year-old said. "If they close it, where are we going to go? Where are all the people going to go?"

Post offices in East Chattanooga, Highland Park and South Chattanooga and downtown Cleveland, Tenn., as well as two more in Murray County, Ga., are targeted for potential closure.

Thousands of post offices could be shut nationwide as the U.S. Postal Service looks for ways to save money and stem its losses. The Postal Service lost $2.6 billion in the first three months of the year.

A number of criteria will be used to determine which offices need to be closed.

The Postal Service will weigh the effect the office has on its community, the effect the closing would have on employees and the availability of service, the potential savings and any other relevant factors.

Postal delivery will not be affected if the offices are closed, Tennessee district spokeswoman Beth Barnett said.

The Postal Service wants to move the closed offices into retail stores. For example, if one office is closed, it might move into a nearby pharmacy, postal officials say.

The office would be staffed by private employees rather than government employees, and the new office would not offer money orders, registered mail, certified mail or passports. However, the new office still would sell stamps and deliver packages.

The local store might benefit from the higher foot traffic and reduced costs, Barnett said.

Ron Turcotte, 66, also lives nearby. He said he loves the proximity but understands that the post office might need to shut down.

"I love the convenience and, from a selfish point of view, I want them, but it's out of its time," he said.

When the Postal Service was the only way to send mail, the government needed to ensure that post offices stayed open, Turcotte said. But with UPS, FedEx and new technologies bringing competition, he thinks the government needs to let the Postal Service die.

With the Postal Service available on the Internet, some of the country's 32,000 post offices are obsolete, Barnett said.

"You can pretty much do anything on USPS.com as you can in a store, 24 hours a day," Barnett said. "Do we need 32,000 post offices now?"

Now that stamps can be bought in so many places, the number of people coming into post offices has declined significantly. In the past five years, post offices received 200 million fewer visits and $2 billion less revenue, she said.

about Andrew Pantazi...

Andrew Pantazi is an intern at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who says that when he was 7 he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life: play hockey for the Colorado Avalanche. Unfortunately, he says he wasn't any good at hockey, so he became a journalist instead. He writes about the lives we hide, like the man who suffered a stroke but smiled, or the football walk-on who endured 5 ...

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NorthChatter said...

I can understand that no one wants to see "their" post office closed, but we obviously don't need 32,000 locations across the country, especially when the postal service is on track to lose over $10 Billion dollars...just this year. Some of these locations, based on walk in traffic, do not even do enough business to warrant one full-time counter employee. If you are doing that little business, the location should close (Highland Park is one of those locations, I remember this from the last time they threatened to close locations a few years ago)

The Postal Service is still necessary, even in the internet age, and ours (warts and all) is one of the best in the world. But it has to become meaner and MUCH leaner.

I had read earlier that they want to cut about 10%-15% (3,700 locations), I think they need to cut deeper than that. And I think they should dump Saturday delivery (except for specialized premium services like Overnight and Air Mail). Fed Ex and UPS seem to get along just fine with 5 day delivery.

August 1, 2011 at 1:30 a.m.
nucanuck said...

The USPS needs to operare like a for profit business. If that means three day a week delivery of regular mail, so be it. They can and should compete with Fed Ex and UPS on the rest. Lean and mean is their only chance...which of course would mean lots more unemployment.

August 1, 2011 at 10:28 p.m.
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