Postal service officials hear citizens out

BY JON FRANK | APRIL 27, 2011 7:20 AM

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Concerned citizens formed a makeshift semicircle Tuesday in the downtown Iowa City postal substation. The crowd of around 30 silently offered their attention to the three U.S. Postal Service personnel as they discussed the federal institution's recent years of hardships.

"First of all, I'd like to say no decision has been made," said Rory Sullivan, the acting manager of post-office operations for Area 6, which includes Iowa City.

Sullivan went on to explain why the little downtown outlet, 121 E. Washington St., is under review. The reasons were numerous.

The Postal Service says it lost $8.5 billion last year. Mail volume declined from 213 billion items in 2006 to 170.5 billion in 2010. And people no longer rely on brick and mortar facilitys for their shipping needs, Sullivan said.

He estimated the Washington Street facility was one of roughly 60 small offices officials are considering closing.

"We just can't be in every place like we used to be," Sullivan said.

Nonetheless, community members were quick to plead their case after the postal employees opened the platform for questions and concerns.

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Elderly residents said the post office's closure would prevent them from being able to walk to the post office to deliver mail and purchase stamps.

"I probably would have to find other means to mail things," said Suzanne Peters, a retired teacher who lives in the Ecumenical Towers, 320 E. Washington St. "I don't like going to that other post office [on Clinton Street]."

Some voiced concerns over the increased traffic at the Clinton Street post office, across from the Johnson County Courthouse, which, they said, would result in congested lines and poor customer service.

Business owners chimed in as well.

Some business owners in attendance said the nearby post office allows for safe and convenient shipping. The facility's closure would likely result in relying on private shipping companies such as FedEx and United Parcel Services, they said.

"What I hope they got out of this is how much people care about not just this post office, but the Postal Service in general," said Bill Nusser, the fourth generation owner of Hands Jewelers, 109 E. Washington St.

Nusser said he believes postal officials will opt to close the small facility down and said the officials seemed to know little about the specific location.

"These people can't even tell you if it's profitable or not," he said.

Over the next three to six months, officials will monitor sales numbers to determine the facility's future. Officials will consider the facility's revenue, mail volume, operating cost, and public concerns during their assessment. The information will be sent to Dean Granholm, the postal vice president of retail, who will decide the facility's future within six months.

"There's always people who ask, 'What can I do?' " said Angie Green, a post-office review investigator. "I say call your congressman, form petitions, because that all becomes part of the study that headquarters reviews."

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