Athens post offices safe from closings

Streaks of dirt run down the engraved letters “UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE.”

Footsteps echo through the building inside while a clerk mumbles to his customer.

The place is nearly empty.

And yet, the East Hancock Avenue post office is not the one closing.

After 23 years, the Tate Center post office will be ending operations by the end of May.

“It’s unfortunate, but it was no longer a smart financial decision to keep it around,” said Dwayne Weaver, manager of Campus Mail, in a March 30 Red & Black article. “But the students will still get their packages and mail. They will just have to go elsewhere for mail orders and stamps.”

For Megha Sharma, a University graduate student, and Ankit Arte, a web developer for the University’s engineering department, “elsewhere” means the downtown post office.

“Our only other option is to go downtown,” Sharma said while filling out forms to mail a package at the Tate office. “It’s difficult because it doesn’t fall on the bus route.”

Arte agreed.

“Or it is a 15-minute walk, at least, from here,” he said.

Both said they mail internationally as well as domestically, and they use the Tate office quite often.

Still, customers of the downtown office don’t see the inconvenience of the location.

Ronald Ellington, a retired professor of the University, frequents the downtown office.

“This is the closest office by foot,” he said. “It is easier if you are downtown to walk over here to get certified letters than it is to get in your car.”

The Tate office closing seems to be part of the national trend.

Due to a decline in mail, it is no longer needed as a processing center. USPS only offered a $19,000 yearly contract to the University, according to a March 30 Red & Black article, as opposed to the usual $160,000 yearly contract the two had prior.

“We are looking at closing 225 or so mail processing facilities across the country for possible closing,” Michael Miles, USPS spokesman said. “Overall the network makes up 500 processing facilities across country. Those were setup when mail volume was growing… 2012 looking forward, there is not as much mail as we once had so we’re looking at shrinking that network of processing facilities.”

In fact, USPS is losing $36 million a day, according to the New York Times, with customers switching to electronic methods for sending their messages and other services.

To cut costs, the service has considered closing 3,700 post offices in mostly rural areas.

Athens Congressman Paul Broun, however, has said he opposes these measures.

“While a large city can absorb the closure of a post office, rural areas, which I am honored to represent, relies [sic] on the postal service for vital goods and services, such as medicine or payment of bills,” he said in an email interview. “ I oppose closing rural post offices as the first line of cost savings because their value to rural communities far outweighs the negligible savings that can come from closing them.”

But Miles said the service is not worried about what may happen after closings.

He said the future of the service is for it to become a “leaner, meaner machine.”

“The Postal Service is at the heart of a $9 billion business,” he said. “That means you are talking about transportation companies that haul mail, envelope manufacturers and printers and pre-sort mail houses and direct mail companies — and the postal services is at the heart of that business.”

And while the service has at least considered closing offices including the main plant in Athens at Olympic Drive, the Athens offices never made the final cut.

This is a relief for some Athens residents.

“From a convenience standpoint, [closings] would affect me a lot,” Paul Trudeau, a University staff member, said. “From an organizational point, for our job, we use our P.O Box for all of our literature. I just hope they let us know beforehand, so we can plan accordingly.”

 

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