Chattanooga post office closures hinge on several factors

Chattanooga post office closures hinge on several factors

August 1st, 2011 by Andrew Pantazi in News

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/Times Free Press.

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.