Residents of the Payne Phalen community on the East Side of Saint Paul were dismayed to learn that their Seeger Square post office is on the chopping block in cuts proposed by the United States Postal Service. Community members say the little post office is a vital force in their community.
Chelsea DeArmond and her husband, Tyler, live on Railroad Island in the Payne Phalen neighborhood on St. Paul’s East Side. They run a home-based e-commerce business that ships vacuum tubes and audio parts around the world. If recent proposals by the United States Postal Service play out, they will be among the East Side residents feeling the pain.
Residents of the Payne Phalen community on the East Side of Saint Paul were dismayed to learn that their Seeger Square post office is on the chopping block in cuts proposed by the United States Postal Service. In an effort to cut costs, the United States Postal Service has announced potential changes to 87 post offices in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, and 3,200 across the country.
Community members say the little post office is a vital force in their community. Closing it would leave only one post office to serve the entire East Side of Saint Paul: the Dayton’s Bluff station on East Minnehaha Avenue, which is about a mile and a half away, and not as easily accessible by bus as the Seeger Square location.
The DeArmonds use the Seeger Square Station once or twice a week, in addition to using the Minnehaha location. Tyler wrote in an e-mail,“ My concern is that the traffic at the Minnehaha location will dramatically increase if Seeger Square closes. … [Closing Seeger Square] would cut my reasonable drop off options in half and make it more difficult for me to get my packages out in a timely manner. It would cost me time, which costs me money.”
Seeger Square Station is a tiny post office with three windows. Previous USPS cuts have left only two employees, one full time and one part time. There are also 100 PO boxes rented to local businesses, organizations and residents.
The Seeger Square Station opened in 1988 at the Seeger Square Shopping Center, a strip mall that includes a Rainbow, a family clinic, a Blockbuster, a Little Caesar’s Pizza , a Dollar Store, and several other shops. Located on the site of the former Seeger Refrigeration company, the little strip mall has a small town feel and serves people in a neighborhood that includes a large population of immigrants, small business owners, and people who either walk or are transit dependent.
Anne Briseno, who is with the East Side Neighborhood Development Corporation, said that the business people are concerned for the community, and that having the storefront post office encouraged neighbors to patronize other local businesses.
At a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Payne Phalen District 5 Planning Council on July 28, residents spoke out about the hardships that closing the post office branch will create. One woman said that a neighbor of hers, an elderly woman, takes a taxi to shop at Rainbow and stops in at the post office on the same trip. If that station closes it would mean two separate trips , one to the grocery store and one to the post office, and she would need to pay the cost of two taxis.
She also lamented the disappearance of the shiny blue mailboxes that once stood on street corners throughout the neighborhood, leaving a visit to the post office as the only option for mailing letters.
At the meeting, Richard Kramer said that he has rented a PO box at Seeger Square for 20 years. He said that many “people who use Seeger Square are people who buy one or two stamps a day.”
Kramer said that the East Side has already been through downsizing as other post office stations were closed or moved, with some going to the suburbs.
Population for all of the East Side makes up a third of the entire population of Saint Paul. Kramer said, “ If you transfer business from Seeger Square to Minnehaha … it will be a confounding mess for residents.”
Lyle Puppe, a retired postmaster, who lives in the Payne Phalen neighborhood, said US Representative Betty McCollum has signed on to HR 22, which “would cure USPS of problems it now has.”
Chao Lee, an assistant to McCollum, encouraged community members to continue to dialogue and said, “ Let us know what we can do.”
Postal service supervisors were invited to the meeting but were unable to be there. Tom Edwards, president of the Saint Paul Area local of the American Postal Workers Union was at the meeting. While the final decision to close the post office will be made at the federal level, Edwards encouraged community members to join together to try to stop the closing. . He said, “The only way to stop closures is by town hall meetings. As a union, I can’t stop it.” He urged the people to apply pressure and said “ This should be about what you as a community want to do to save your post office.“
Mary Thoemke, a lifelong resident of Saint Paul, is a free lance writer for the Twin Cities Daily Planet. Email email@example.com