Delivering change for the postal service

Published 7:51 pm Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In a community the size of Chuckatuck, the post office has historically been a hub of local social activity. Residents with P.O. boxes would see one another during their daily visits, stop and say hello, ask about family members, businesses, church and the like and then head off. With a handful of mail or stamps or a package or two, they would head home or to work caught up on the village news.

That was a long time ago.

Post offices today are nowhere near as busy as they used to be. With email alleviating the need for a huge portion of the business the U.S. Postal Service once handled, and competition from private shippers such as FedEx and UPS, much of the service’s core business has disappeared. And since the Postal Service is required to break even without help from taxpayers, users of the regular mail have been forced to watch the cost of stamps and postal permits rise to levels they never would have imagined back in the days of trading stories with the neighbor on the steps by the big blue mailbox. And the service is even considering dispensing with Saturday delivery.

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With those realities as a backdrop, there’s a rumor making its way around the village of Chuckatuck that has at least some of the community’s residents wound up tighter than a 10-day clock. The word on the streets is that the Chuckatuck Post Office is set to close or at least have its hours of service curtailed.

Postal officials claim they are not actively discussing the idea of closing the Chuckatuck Post Office, though they are considering cost-savings measures throughout the service. But all these things paint a picture of eventual doom for places like the Chuckatuck office. Even if it’s not this year, there will come a time in the not-too-distant future when postal officials decide that it’s not fiscally responsible to keep the smallest post offices open. At that point, there will be some long, hard decisions to be made about which ones to close. But those decisions eventually will be made in the harsh light of business realities.

Considering the eventuality, postal officials should be thinking about how they will best serve Suffolk’s residents with one or two locations. They should be considering how to improve traffic flow and parking around the downtown location — or they should build or renovate another downtown building to house the city’s primary postal operations. And they should be thinking about whether Driver Station is in the best location to serve the residents of North Suffolk.

Only a comprehensive review of Suffolk’s postal problems will be fair to those who are destined to lose their local offices.