Brooksville business owner Dan Patrick wasn't happy about the U.S. Postal Service's announcement Tuesday that the downtown post office on Fort Dade Avenue is one of two Hernando County branches that could face closure in the near future.
Also targeted is the tiny postal outpost in Istachatta, in the northeast corner of the county.
Patrick, who runs an insurance agency, said he stops in at the Brooksville branch every morning to check his post office box. He knows everyone working behind the counter, and they know him. Not having a downtown post office would be a blow to the city's business community.
"Every business I know uses it," Patrick said angrily. "Who knows where they'll make you have to go to get your mail?"
Many of the customers that showed up at the branch Wednesday had similar reactions, including Ronald Krna, who said he's been coming to the branch for 25 years.
"I like it because it's not as crowded as the post office on the (State Road 50) truck route (on Brooksville's southwest side)," Krna said. "I like being able to get in and out fast."
As more and more customers use the Internet to communicate, pay bills and buy stamps, however, the Postal Service says it has been forced to look at ways to consolidate its operations. Nationally, 3,700 branches are being studied for possible closure in an effort to trim costs and reduce a projected deficit this year of $8.3 billion.
"It's a trend we can't escape," said Postal Service spokeswoman Nancy Ross. "We're having to look for ways to save just like everybody."
The move away from brick and mortar operations in favor of "village post offices" in supermarkets and gas stations would save money and still provide basic services.
Among the criteria for determining which post offices made the study list were volume of mail handled, revenue generated and the proximity of other post offices.
Even small, one-person operations are being targeted. Earlier this year, the Postal Service closed its contract office in Masaryktown, which had been in operation since 1956.
Ross explained that the study would likely take several months to complete, and that no post offices would close before December. Just because a branch makes the list doesn't necessarily mean it's doomed, Ross said.
"A lot of factors go into the evaluation," she said. "Community input is a very important part of that."
Linda Moye, who recently moved to Nobleton, said not having a local branch in nearby Istachatta would be a huge inconvenience because she doesn't drive.
"I have to get a ride with a neighbor," she said. "I doubt they'd want to take me all the way into Brooksville."
City Council member Lara Bradburn said closing the downtown Brooksville branch, where about 20 people are employed, would be a slap in the city's face.
"It's in the middle of the county seat," she said. "Not only does it serve two very busy governmental entities, it serves the public who is served by those governments."
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.