Efforts to protest the closing of the Como Avenue post office in Saint Paul’s St. Anthony Park neighborhood fizzled out late last week when the U.S. Postal Service said that only one office on its list of 24 Minnesota stations and branches was still on the chopping block: the South International Falls Finance Station.
When the Postal Service announced in July that it lost $2.4 billion between April and June and was looking at possibly closing 3,200 branches throughout the country, including the Como Avenue station and Seeger Square station on Saint Paul’s east side, the St. Anthony Park neighborhood online forum started to buzz.
The branch at 2286 Como Ave. is in the heart of a neighborhood business district that includes a small grocery store, a community bank, a couple of gift shops, a bookstore, two restaurants, dental offices, and more.
“Losing the Como station would be a huge loss for this community, and we have to do whatever we can to prevent it,” said Jon Schumacher, executive director of the St. Anthony Park Community Foundation, in a post dated August 4.
Neighbors began distributing addresses of the Saint Paul postmaster and U.S. senators and representatives onto the online service and urged each other to write letters the old-fashioned way, with stamps rather than email, in support of keeping the branch open. The post office had stacks of surveys at the entry to the building, asking customers about their use of the station.
Some residents and business people saw the closing of the post office as something the Postal Service needed to do. “The post office needs to be run like a business,” wrote Sandy Jacobs of Update Company, a property management firm in the neighborhood. “If they’re losing money and they have too many locations too close together, then a branch may need to close, even though it would be less convenient for some.”
Resident Gordon Murdock, however, did not agree that closing the branch made good economic sense: “The community service that the post office provides cannot be replaced by ordering stamps on line or having mail delivered from another station. . . . [B]eing a center of activity adds economic value to the village. Foot traffic to the village helps support the small businesses there (which we all value). . . .”
Turns out, community service (and the outpouring of community concern) was one of the reasons many of the stations in Minnesota will not close, according to USPS spokesperson Peter Nowacki. “Community issues were a factor,” he said. “We looked at some [stations] and knew [closing] would have a negative impact on customer service.” Also, many of the stations “are tied to a small business community in the area,” he said, and closing the local post office would negatively affect those businesses.
Nowacki said it was never the intention of the agency to close all 24 stations that were initially on the list. After researching each station, some were taken off because of leases the agency could not get out of or the amount of revenue they generated was too much to walk away from, he said.
For now, only the South International Falls Finance Station will be shuttered and the Postal Service is looking at other ways to cut costs. The postmaster general asked Congress last week to consider reducing the amount of days of weekly mail delivery from six to five, which could save the agency $3.5 billion a year.
Also, the agency is eliminating all blue street mailboxes throughout the country that receive less than 25 pieces of mail a day, Nowacki said.
The Como Avenue and Seeger Square stations will remain open for the foreseeable future, Nowacki said, but he admits that in these times of uncertainty “you never say never.”
Kristal Leebrick is a freelance writer who lives in Saint Paul.
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