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G'burg rallies in effort to save post office

Post office to close Aug. 1

July 23, 2008
The people of Grantsburg have seen it happen before. Other small towns in the area have lost their post offices, and before long, the towns begin to wither away. Now, it's Grantsburg's turn, and the residents are not ready to give up the anchor of their community.

Last Wednesday, Tim Reynolds, an official from the U.S. Postal Service, came to Grantsburg to meet with residents about closing the only business in town, the little post office that has become so important in the day-to-day lives of the people there. It's not just the place where nine people get their mail and buy stamps, it's the place where they see their neighbors, catch up on what's happening, and gather to share news of funerals, weddings, and the graduations of grandchildren. The officials of the U.S. Postal Service may not see the value in that, but people who live in rural communities certainly do.

"This little post office is the identity of our community," said Tilden Jones, who lives across the street and is the minister of Bethany Union Church. "A lot of people buy their stamps here and mail packages. It means a lot to the people of the town to keep it open."

But postal officials have determined that the facility needs to go. Reynolds told the standing-room only crowd that the building wasn't secure enough — that there were no bars on the windows to help prevent a break-in and that the floor of the structure, a converted mobile home, could not hold the weight of a 3,000-pound safe.

"Well, there's probably over 3,000 pounds of us here now and the floor seems to be doing fine," said Ted Painter, a local resident.

"If someone broke in, they wouldn't get over $20," added a lady in the audience. "I don't see that's there's a security issue here."

"Well, they could take money orders and the money order machine," Reynolds responded.

"There's already been $4,000 to $5,000 spent on building the handicap ramp here," Painter said. "It doesn't make sense to close it — and we don't want it closed."

Postal officials considered closing the facility a few years ago, but during a similar public meeting at the post office, several older ladies from the community showed up.

"They came down on the postal service representatives like a bunch of sitting hens," Postmaster Alice Myers said. "The guys left rather quickly and haven't been back since."

But the town knew that it was just a matter of time until the postal service officials returned. There was little warning this time, and many of the older ladies have passed away or now live in nursing homes. For the last few years, Myers only opened the facility a couple of hours a day, but even that wasn't enough.

"All of a sudden, they want to close it," said Ellen Forbes, who runs an insurance company in English. "Now, we're losing a service to the community, and there's been no problems for years and years. My question is, why now?"

But Reynolds and English Postmaster Jerry Atkins assured the crowd that there would still be adequate service for postal customers.

"The rural carriers will carry stamps," Atkins said. "Only nine people will have to put up mailboxes. If you already have a mailbox, nothing will change."

"But we have a number of elderly and disabled who use this post office," someone in the audience noted.

"The rural carriers should be able to give them good service," Atkins said.

But the residents didn't like the answers they were hearing, and Reynolds indicated that everything was "pretty much a done deal."

"The Postal Service is a business, like any other business," Reynolds said. "We feel we can provide effective service through rural carriers. This is going to be the only public meeting on this. I'm sorry I can't gives answers that please you. But we're doing what we have to do. Services here will be suspended on Aug. 1. That's the directions I've been given."

As the meeting came to an end, many of the residents remained, and talked about what had just happened, sadly noting that Grantsburg would never be the same. About 10 minutes later, a large postal service truck pulled in, and a worker came in with a tape measure. The post office boxes were measured and written down, the number on the door lock was recorded, and the postmaster's keys were checked and the numbers were noted.

As the truck pulled away, the residents did their best to assure each other that there was still hope for the little post office. Sallie Rentchler, a young Grantsburg resident, talked about how Reynolds was surprised that she, like other younger residents of the town, called the postmaster "Grandma." Some of the residents were angry, some were disappointed, and some were just sad.

"This little post office is all we have," Jones said.

But there's a little church right across the street. The boss of the postal service may shut the post office down, but there's a good chance that the boss of the church will never forsake the little town of Grantsburg.

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