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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 1, 2011

Clarksville post office to close, appeal to come

By Saranac Hale Spencer

CLARKSVILLE — Months after the Bethlehem School Board closed the hamlet’s elementary school, the United States Postal Service has closed Clarksville’s post office.

The final determination from the U.S. Postal Service was posted on Aug. 23.  There are 30 days for residents to appeal.  Peter Henner, a lawyer who runs his practice from his Clarksville home and writes a chess column for The Enterprise, plans to appeal.  Since posting his notice in the post office late last week, he’s gotten a couple of people interested in joining the appeal, he said.

When postal officials held a meeting in May to gather comments from the public about the prospect of closing the rural post office, they anticipated that it would be nine months before the Postal Service would issue a determination.  In July, though, the post office changed its process for evaluating office closures to a “top-down review,” 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.

“It was done nationally,” she said of the change, explaining, “With everything going on in the Post Office… we know we’re going to run out of money.”  Pepe referred to the Postal services strapped finances, leading it to petition Congress to change mail delivery to five days a week instead of six and to seek relief from its heavy pension costs.

When the Clarksville Post Office was listed for review, there were three things that could make an office eligible for study to be closed: if it occupied leased space and a reasonable contract couldn’t be negotiated with the land-owner; if it suffered some kind of natural disaster, like a flood; or if it did not have a post master.  Clarksville fell under the third criteria, as its postmaster had retired in 2010.

Since July, though, those criteria no longer apply and the Postal Service is looking at data, regardless of other factors, Pepe said.  The list that the Postal Service is now using to evaluate offices is based on the revenue that comes into the offices on an annual basis.  Forty more posts offices have been added to the list for review in the Albany district since the criteria changed, Pepe said.  The start dates for their review will be staggered, she said.

The post office in Guilderland Center, which is also being considered for closure, is expected to get a determination by the end of September or beginning of October, Pepe said.  The Rensselaerville and East Berne post offices, which had also been under consideration, have now been removed from the list of potential closures.

Clarksville residents will get their mail by rural route service administered by the Feura Bush Post Office, which is five miles from Clarksville, according to the determination.  Revenue at the Clarksville office was $80,596 in 2008, then $74, 195 in 2009, and $65,391 in 2010, it says.  Transactions at the office’s retail window averaged 31 per day, resulting in 32 minutes of work per day.

The Postal Service expects to save $26,521 annually by closing the office.

“It may be an uphill battle… I think it’s a battle we have to fight,” said Henner of appealing the closure.  A similar sentiment came from Clarksville residents when the Bethlehem School Board began considering the hamlet’s elementary school for closure at the beginning of the year.  The board decided to close the school in March.

Henner, who depends on the post office for his law practice and uses it at least once and often twice a day, argues that closing the office will have severe economic impacts on the community since rural businesses rely on access to the postal system.

“We don’t want Clarksville to be a group of abandoned buildings on Main Street,” he said.

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