|Olustee losing its post office to USPS crisis|
|The Press - News|
|Written by Joel Addington|
|Wednesday, 07 December 2011 09:42|
The Olustee post office will be shuttered next month as the United States Postal Service continues to consolidate operations nationwide in reaction to falling mail volumes and budget pressures.
The contract office, the smallest of four in the county, serves 65 post office box customers and more than 1000 delivery customers along two rural routes, USPS spokesman Stephen Seewoester said this week.
But for residents of the rural community in the western county, the federal agency’s problems mean little compared to the loss of what Olustee postmaster Glenda Owen described as the neighborhood’s “communications center.”
She recalled the day someone came in and mentioned they’d just seen a group of cows wandering on US 90. The 23-year post office manager immediately knew whose cows they likely were and who to call to help corral them to safety.
According to Ms. Owen, an Olustee native, as well as other neighborhood residents who visited the small white building on Ocean Street with an American flag outside the morning of December 6, the community will lose more than the roughly 170 mailboxes located there.
Retired men who arrive promptly at 8 am to pick up their mail and swap town gossip will not have a convenient place to congregate and socialize.
Bettie Starling will have a difficult time keeping up with town happenings, too. The elderly Olustee resident moved there in 2003 and stops by the post office two or three times a month to buy stamps, ship packages and chat with Ms. Owen.
“We’ll miss it,” said Ms. Starling. “I don’t have the time to run around the neighborhood and talk with all of the women. I’m used to coming here and talking to Glenda.”
“This is where a lot of people get their information about what’s going on in town,” said Ms. Owen, adding later that one local resident calls her “the dispatcher.”
“They come in and sit around and talk. It’s not like that at the other post offices,” she said.
Olustee post office box renters have two options after the closing — apply for rural route delivery or a new box at the Sanderson post office, where the lobby is open 24 hours a day, said Mr. Seewoester.
USPS contracted with Ms. Owen, whose family owns the post office building, to operate the office. The contract expires December 31 and has not been renewed.
Mr. Seewoester said any 2012 rent paid for post office boxes will be refunded and that stamps can be purchased directly from rural route carriers.
Retiree Earl Odom has lived 2.5 miles from the post office off CR 231 S. since 1974. He and about 10 neighboring residences have applied for rural route delivery, but they have yet to gain approval, he said.
“I hate to see it close,” Mr. Odom said of the post office. “When you get delivery, your mail is not as secure ... But most of all, it’s a damn tradition.”
Ms. Owen agreed.
“The worse thing is, we’re losing our identity as a community ... Not so much for the new people that have moved here, but the ones that have been here their whole lives,” she said.
For Ms. Owen, who’s spent more than two decades running the post office, the closing is also a sign of how Olustee is changing.
“People don’t all go to the same church anymore,” she said. “Everything is so modern nowadays. People used to walk the streets and sit on their porches and just visit. Now, you can drive past somebody on the street and you have no idea who they are.”
“It’s really sad,” said Ms. Owen.
The recently widowed Ms. Owen isn’t sure what she’ll do to occupy her mornings after the closure, but she’s got some ideas, namely fishing and volunteering.
“I don’t know what I would volunteer at, but I’d like to do that,” she said.
|Last Updated on Friday, 09 December 2011 09:04|