The U.S. Postal Service announced last week plans to imminently close the Elmore post office.
The decision was triggered by contract negotiations prompted by the changing ownership of the Elmore Store, where the Elmore post office is located. The post office consists of several post office boxes maintained by Elmore residents. Current P.O. box owners will be asked to relocate them to Morristown if residential service is unavailable.
Though the post office alerted Elmore Community Trust members it might close the Elmore post office in their months-long negotiations, the trust was notified abruptly last week that a closure was planned for Feb. 4, though in a subsequent separate communication with the News and Citizen a postal service representative said the date was Feb. 25.
Now the Elmore Community Trust is scrambling to fight the decision, exploring legal options and enlisting the assistance of Vermont’s federal delegation in the fight.
According to Trevor Braun, the fight is for much more than a few post office boxes.
“The post office has been a critical fixture in the community for decades, over a century,” Braun said. “The community has fought hard to keep it that way in the past, and everybody that has a post office box at the Elmore Store chooses to spend the money to do that. They don’t have to. They could have a regular mailbox for free. But they want to get their mail at the Elmore post office. They provide a high level of service and that’s what ties the community together.”
The Elmore Community Trust just raised $400,000 to preserve the Elmore Store and sees the closure threat as a blow to its preservation efforts. The post office brings people into the store and its removal could have a marked impact.
Steve Doherty, a communications representative for the postal service’s Northeast region, minimized the gravity of the Elmore post office’s closure in a statement.
“Retail postal services will remain available at the store and street delivery of mail won’t be impacted,” he said. “The only thing that’s moving are the post office boxes, which will be relocated to the Morrisville Post Office (about 4 miles away) as of Feb. 25. Box holders will be notified of the move and their option to establish street delivery if available.”
While Braun acknowledged the closure only affects boxholders, he said it was an essential aspect of civic life in the rural town. The post office has existed in Elmore since 1846, according to Braun, just three years prior to the founding of the Pony Express, and the community won’t stand for it being snuffed out with less than 30 days’ notice.
The community trust has essentially been stonewalled by the postal service, to the extent that the group has enlisted legal counsel to compel it to provide them with contact information for a representative they can communicate with at the federal agency, Braun said.
Braun said Vermont’s federal delegation, including Sen. Patrick Leahy, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch, is planning to draft a letter to the U.S. Post Service inquiring into the Elmore post office’s planned closure.
Though his office did not return a request for comment before press time, Sanders in particular has been a vocal critic of the agency’s current practices and its management by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.
While no rational has been provided for closing the Elmore post office, its closure could possibly be in line with DeJoy’s stated austerity plan for the postal service, but Braun noted that the Elmore post office is profitable.
“I think our argument against the removal of the Elmore post office as a cost-saving measure is that our records indicate that the Elmore post office is a profit center for the USPS. If the problem is that it is not profitable enough, we would have appreciated the opportunity to negotiate,” Braun said.
The trust has distributed a letter to PO box holders in Elmore urging them to spread the word and speak out against the planned closure of the post office in their town, hoping to drum up enough avenues of pressure on the postal service that they will have no choice but to return to the negotiating table.