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Area cities fight to keep post offices open

Posted by Marcia Dick  August 9, 2011 11:04 AM

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Local leaders in three area cities are voicing their opposition to the potential closure of post offices in their communities.

The US Postal Service announced July 26  it is considering the closure of 3,700 post offices nationwide. Forty three  Massachusetts post offices are on the list, including two in Medford and one each in Chelsea, Haverhill, and Lowell.  Final decisions on closure will follow six-month studies of the post offices on the list.

Officials in Haverhill, Lowell, and Medford said in interviews that they hope to convince postal officials that it would be a mistake to close the targeted offices in their cities, which they contend are actively used and important community resources.

The two Medford facilities on the list are the West Medford office on High Street, and the Tufts University post office, which is located on Boston Avenue  across from the campus. The city also has a main post office in Medford Square.

Mayor Michael J. McGlynn said he was working through the office of US Representative Edward J. Markey to seek a meeting with postal officials to argue against the shuttering of the Tufts and West Medford offices, which he noted have both been under review for closures in the past.

"They both do a significant amount of business," he said. The Tufts post office is used by students from the college and by residents of south Medford and the Hillside neighborhood, many of them elderly, McGlynn said. The West Medford office serves that neighborhood and is used by Arlington and Winchester residents, he said.

Dennis P. Tarmey, spokesman for the US Postal Services’ Greater Boston district, said the recently announced list was developed by the service’s Washington headquarters based on how much business each post office does, its employee workload, and its proximity to other post offices.

But he emphasized that ‘‘this is a list of offices to be studied, not a closure list.’’ He said the studies, carried out by local districts, will further analyze the data for each targeted office and collect public feedback from customer surveys and community meetings. Based on the study, the district will decide within 180 days whether to close the office.

The Greater Boston district will conduct 31 of the Massachusetts surveys, including those for the five area offices on the list.

While not commenting on any specific office identified, Tarmey said, ‘‘We are reaching out to our customers and getting input. We expect our customers will definitely vocalize their concerns and we will address them.’’

Tarmey said the postal service needs to close offices because of a steep decline in mail usage over the last few years.

‘‘We are losing money. Our mail volume is down and we don’t see it coming back,’’ he said.

"We oppose it and we are going to do whatever we can to persuade them to change their minds,’’ Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini said of the inclusion of the Bradford post office, on Route 125 in Bradford Square, on the potential closure list. Fiorentini said the closure would result in most patrons of that office using the city’s main post office downtown, adding to the existing parking congestion there.

‘‘Twenty five percent of our population lives in Bradford,’’ he said. ‘‘We have an awful lot of traffic going downtown, and it’s very difficult when you go to the downtown post office to get a parking spot, though we do everything we can to free up spaces.’’

The city has a third post office in the Ward Hill  neighborhood — which is part of Bradford. But Fiorentini said that site would be inconvenient for most people who use the post office on Route 125.

The Lowell post office on the list is the Downtown Station office on Central and Market streets.  The city also has a central post office on Father Morissette Boulevard,  and an office serving the Highlands  neighborhood.

Adam Baacke, Lowell’s assistant city manager for planning and development, said the city has written to the postal service expressing its opposition to closing the downtown facility.

‘‘The downtown population includes a substantial number of subsidized affordable units for the elderly. Many of them do not have a car and rely entirely on their ability to walk places, so the downtown office is pretty critical to them,’’ he said.

Baacke also noted that the downtown office ‘‘is directly in the middle of the census tract in Lowell experiencing the greatest amount of population growth the last decade. It seems in that sense an odd choice for one to eliminate.
‘‘We certainly feel that post offices are an integral part of the mix of uses and activities that help create a vital and active downtown,’’ he added.
The Chelsea post office on the list is the Incoming Mail Center North on Beacham Street.  Tarmey said he believes the potential closure is limited to the retail section of the facility, which also serves as the location where postal carriers from Chelsea, Everett, East Boston, and Winthrop collect the mail for their delivery routes.

Chelsea city manager Jay Ash said the city is not opposing the closure, noting that most city residents use the city’s main post office downtown, which, unlike the Beacham Street facility, is a full service retail facility.

While the closure would inconvenience businesses and residents who have post boxes at the Beacham Street office, Ash said, ‘‘We will still have a fully functional post office.’’

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