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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, May 26, 2011
A second blow
CLARKSVILLE The post office in this rural hamlet is being considered for closure as the financially strapped U. S. Postal Service looks for ways to cut costs.
Less than two months after the decision was made to close Clarksville’s elementary school, dozens of residents showed their support, “overwhelmingly, obviously, to keep it open,” said Margaret Pepe, the Postal Service’s manager for marketing and customer relations in the Albany district, which goes as far north as the Canadian border and includes 724 post offices. The Postal Service held a meeting to gauge the community’s sentiment on May 2 in Clarksville.
If the post office closes, the 214 people with mailboxes there would be moved to the Feura Bush post office, which is about five miles away.
Clarksville’s office is under consideration for closure because it meets one of three criteria the postmaster’s position is currently vacant. The post hasn’t been filled since the last post master retired on March 31, 2010. While the office has someone running it, the position hasn’t been filled because the Postal Service has had a freeze on appointments, Pepe said.
The other two criteria that can trigger consideration for closure are either an inability to negotiate reasonable terms with a leaser, if the office space is rented, or if there is a natural disaster, like a flood, at the office.
Before last year, Pepe said after a similar meeting in Guilderland Center last week, no offices had been closed in her district for 10 or 12 years. Within the last year, since the Postal Service has been facing severe financial difficulties, three postal stations in Albany have been consolidated and two postal stations in Syracuse have been closed.
A postal station in Scotia was recently considered for closure, Pepe said, but has remained open and there were some in Albany that had been considered, but not closed.
The average amount of time it takes for the federal-level decision to be handed down is between nine months and a year, Pepe said.
New Scotland’s supervisor, Thomas Dolin, said this week that he and Councilman Douglas LaGrange attended the Clarksville meeting and explained to postal officials that the post office is important to the economic fabric of the community. Many residents in that rural area of the town have small businesses and rely on having a convenient post office, Dolin said.
“It would be very detrimental” to small businesses, he said, adding that the town is trying to encourage growth in that sector. It’s already difficult for rural residents to get adequate Internet access, Dolin said. Closing the post office would further impede their ability to conduct business, he said.
The closure of the post office, “coupled with the closing of the school, it’s really a devastating thing for the federal government to do,” said Dolin.
In March, the Bethlehem School Board closed the elementary school in the center of the hamlet. Residents galvanized against the measure, arguing that the school created a sense of place. Next year, the students will be bused to suburban schools in the neighboring town of Bethlehem.