Climax folks upset about post office closure

Published 10:17am Friday, November 9, 2012

About 30 citizens of Climax attended a public hearing outside the Climax Post Office building Thursday afternoon, voicing their frustrations with the way the town’s post office was recently closed.

Angela Collier, the manager of Post Office operations for the North Florida district, told the Climax residents that the post office had to move quickly out of the building because its lease had expired and could not be renewed. She said that the United States Postal Service (USPS) had initially planned to keep the Climax Post Office open with a reduced six-hour day, but that plan had to be changed when the lease expired on Oct. 31.

“We came to the point where we couldn’t reach an agreement,” Collier said. “So we said we’re going to have to take the P.O. boxes out of this office and try to do what we call an ‘emergency suspension.’ And that’s what we did, we put the boxes right down the street at Ware’s and they agreed to become a Village Post Office.”

The Village Post Office opened at Ware’s General Merchandise, 115 W. Broad St., on Nov. 1. It is designed to continue to offer stamps and flat-rate Priority Mail prepaid packaging, as well as 24/7 access to the P.O. boxes that had been housed at the Climax Post Office. Any other postal needs must now be handled by the post office in Whigham or Bainbridge.

However, several citizens questioned Collier’s assertion that the lessor, Morgan Wolaver, was the one who broke off negotiations.

“The information that we received was that the Postal Service broke off the negotiations,” Mayor Charles Hadsock said. “The guy who owns the building did not. He was still willing, and is still willing to negotiate.”

Collier said she did not have first-hand knowledge of the state of the negotiations, and that it had been handled by the USPS’s Facilities Department.

“My understanding is that he said, ‘this is what I want, period’ and we said, ‘this is what we can do, period,’ and those two would never match,” Collier said.

However, Collier noted that the USPS would be willing to go back to the bargaining table at any time, as long as the offer was “fair market value.” She also stated that the USPS would be willing to negotiate with any one else in Climax who might have a building suitable to house a permanent post office with reduced hours.

“You can help us and try to find another location that could work as a realigned-hour post office,” she said. “That would definitely help.”

City Clerk Karen Toole said her biggest concerns were that the USPS did not follow proper procedure and protocol when it decided to undergo the “emergency suspension” at the Climax Post Office. According to Section 404(d) of title 39, United States Code, “any decision to close or consolidate a post office must be preceded by 60 days notice to persons served by such post office.” She said that the USPS had sent information letters to citizens of Climax about the future of the post office, as well as a survey for them to fill out, but did not allow for enough time for the surveys to be returned. Toole said the surveys were not even received by Climax residents until early October.

In addition, Toole pointed out that USPS regulations require that a copy of an “administrative record” must be available at affected post offices for at least 30 days, after the “final determination” is first posted. The “administrative record” is defined as “a record of all the actions [the USPS] takes (such as soliciting comments or holding a community meeting) and all the facts it considers in reaching a decision on whether to close or consolidate the post office,” according to Postal Regulatory Commission policy. Toole said that an administrative record had never been made available, nor posted at the Climax Post Office.

“We just feel that this wasn’t done above board,” Toole said.

Several citizens told Collier that they did not blame her for the disappointment with the USPS, and appreciated that she was able to stay level-headed and calm, even in the midst of stern questioning.

“I have no reason to be mad or upset,” Collier said. “I believe in the importance of community meetings.”

Collier stated that there are no future meetings scheduled to discuss the Climax Post Office situation, at least not as of Thursday afternoon. However, she did offer an address that residents can write to, if they wish to request more information or ask additional information. That address is:

“POST Plan Coordinator, 451 College St., Macon, GA.”

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