At about 3:45 p.m. on a damp, cool Thursday, a white cargo truck pulled up to the post office in Slidell to pick up the day’s outgoing letters and boxes.
It’s a scene that seems destined to disappear. A study released Tuesday by the U.S. Postal Service has recommended that the Greenwood and Slidell post offices be permanently closed. The study cited a decline in office workload and revenue for the recommendation.
“We held a community meeting Sept. 8 in Slidell and one in Greenwood on Sept. 9,” said Sam Bolin, a spokesperson with USPS. “On Oct. 25, we posted a 60-day proposal which will stay up until the day after Christmas. That’s the public comment period.”
Customers have a 60-day window, through Dec. 26, to submit comments. On Dec. 26, another decision will be posted, and customers will have another 30 days to appeal the decision to the Postal Regulatory Commission. The commission must then render a decision within 120 days. After the final decision is made public, the post offices will remain open for at least 60 days before shutting down.
Comments can be hand delivered to either post office.
USPS has targeted 3,700 post offices across the nation for closing.
“I’m not surprised at anything the government does,” said Slidell resident Sharon McFarlane. “They live in a bubble.”
McFarlane said she and other residents plan to organize another community meeting to find out what they can do to save their local post office.
At the Sept. 8 meeting held in the Slidell High School cafeteria, dozens of residents voiced their concerns to USPS representative Janice Godlewski.
“The post office is what identifies us,” said Martha McCasland. “Our post office box is what gives us a Slidell address. Our (street) addresses are Decatur or Krum. I don’t live in Decatur.”
Residents also referenced security issues as a reason to have a post office box nearby.
“If you live in a rural area, gas or oil people will run over your mailbox or kids will mess it up,” said Kim Hornbuckle. “It’s not secure. I don’t use it.”
“The risk of identity theft is so high now,” said Ann Bartts. “If we have our mail delivered to a box someone can wait until mail is put in it and hit them.”
If the offices close, Slidell customers are told to use the Krum or Decatur office, while Greenwood customers were pointed toward Forestburg and Decatur.
Residents argued that is too far away for some of the elderly citizens.
“We have a lot of elderly residents who can get to the local post office, but they can’t make a 30 mile round trip to Decatur or Krum,” said Kim Dunlap. “I have to work. I don’t have time once I get off to make it all the way to Decatur or Krum in time. And they don’t offer services on Saturday.”
Dunlap added that only dial-up Internet access is available in Slidell, which makes online bill pay difficult.
Godlewski said the Slidell post office didn’t bring in enough revenue to justify its continued operation, which is why it was under review. She said it generated approximately $20,000 in revenue in 2010 and cost $78,000 to operate. The post office rents 130 P.O. boxes.
She said the USPS could offer a cluster box if the offices close to help keep mail secure. Cluster boxes are free-standing locked units typically seen in apartment complexes.