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Patrons of the Lowry Post Office don’t believe that closing that historic facility will do much to help the United States Postal Service recover an $8 billion deficit its facing this year.
And they want it left open.
The Lowry Post Office has been operating at its current site since 1854. Fifteen residents who get their mail there attended a meeting last Thursday to find out more about what’s being proposed.
Lowry Postmaster Deborah Hughes and Ted Bell, manager of Postal operations in Lynchburg, took questions from the residents. The meeting was part of the study being conducted that will determine if it, and some 3,000 other post offices across the country, will be closed.
The Lowry Post Office is the seventh smallest full service facility in the United States, taking up all of 76 square feet in what was once the Coffey Store. Bell told those at the meeting that the Postal Service finds itself in the “perfect storm” of economic problems—fewer people are using the service because of online and other options coupled with the nation’s economic downturn.
“Our costs continue to rise,” Bell said, adding that a 1 cent increase in gas prices costs the Postal Service $8 million annually.
“It’s gone up a lot of pennies lately,” he said.
Bell said USPS has been looking not just to close rural post offices but also to consolidate mail processing facilities. Of the 178 post offices that are being studied for closure in this district, two are in Bedford County. In addition to Lowry, the Coleman Falls Post Office is also being considered.
Bell said the Lowry Post Office has a close proximity to the Goode facility. He said Lowry’s usage by patrons amounts to less than two hours a day of work and less than $27,500 in revenue, both of which make it a target to be closed. He said the study looks at whether the service could be provided in a more cost-effective manner through the Goode Post Office.
The Lowry facility is currently open six days a week from 7:30-11:30 a.m. Its hours and service fits patrons just fine, according to those who attended Thursday’s meeting.
Bell said the Goode facility would provide patrons with a 24-hour-a-day service and he added that rural carriers also serve as a “post office on wheels” for customers.
A final decision on the fate of the Lowry Post Office has not yet been made. Comments from Thursday’s meeting will be included in the study sent to the Postal Regulatory Commission.
John Bryne said that however his mail is addressed, it eventually ends up in his hands through the Lowry Post Office. He questioned whether that would be the case if his service moves to Goode. “We’re satisfied with the service we’re getting now,” he said.
Bell did say that customers would have the option of putting out a mailbox on Lowry Road, if they wanted. Most have general delivery addresses and pick up their mail at the Post Office.
Carolyn Blevins questioned whether the Post Office would actually have any savings if the Lowry facility is closed.
“It’s living history,” Blevins said of the Lowry office. “To close it would be horrible. The Post Office in Lowry has the best service record ever.”
“We have to scratch every penny out of every corner,” Bell responded.
Bell said that has included reducing its work force by more than 200,000 employees over the past 12 years.
Byrne added he didn’t trust the people who will be making the decision. “A camel is the result of a committee that got together to build a horse,” he said.
Patrons added that the Lowry Post Office serves as a gathering place for them, a place where they meet their neighbors and keep in touch.