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Plan to close three Clearwater post offices upsets customers

CLEARWATER — One of the three Clearwater post offices the U.S. Postal Service is considering shutting down is a stately marbled landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.

Built in 1933, it is the Cleveland Street location that gets steady use by the Clearwater Courthouse, municipal employees and residents.

Jon Russell, 67, who fondly remembers coming to the facility as a child in the early 1950s, was surprised to hear the news.

"I would like to see it preserved,'' he said. "There is a special romanticism (about) coming here.''

He added that the post office is "extremely important for all these businesses and the people who live here.''

JoAnn Hutchinson, 52, who lives five minutes away, has been using it to mail letters at least once a month for 23 years.

"I think it would be bad because there would be nowhere else convenient to go, not for me, anyway,'' she said.

Drew Sweet, 53, who uses the location about three times a year, said the building is "beautiful'' and it would be a shame if it closes.

"It's symbolic of Clearwater,'' he said.

The three Clearwater post offices are among 13 in Tampa Bay and up to 1,000 nationwide being considered for closure as the Postal Service struggles to deal with a potential $7 billion loss this year.

Of the three in Clearwater on the chopping block, the location at 650 Cleveland St. is the only facility the U.S. Postal Service owns. The others are leased.

Gary Sawtelle, a spokesman for the Postal Service, said its historic designation "absolutely'' will be a factor as a case-by-case evaluation of each location is conducted.

He added an announcement of the Postal Service's decision could come within 60 days.

Another candidate, 45 Causeway Blvd., is the only post office, aside from a contract station on Island Estates, on Clearwater Beach.

If it closes, life will be more difficult for Doug Pras, 35, who is disabled and uses a wheelchair.

"It would impact me greatly,'' he said. "Going to Largo would be a disaster. I have a minivan, but can't leave home for a long (period) of time.''

Pras, who lives on Sand Key, added that during the holidays, the post office is so busy "there's a line out the door.''

Martin Greenberg, 64, who uses the branch two or three times a week, said "this better not close.''

He said during spring break, it can take him an hour and a half to get over the Clearwater Memorial Causeway Bridge to visit another post office.

Plus, he said, "there are no mailboxes on north beach, go ahead and try and find one.''

It's a dire need, according to Maddie Fedele, 65, of Clearwater Beach.

"I can't get the services that I need anywhere else,'' she said. "I'm sort of handicapped and I can't say enough about what they do for me here.''

Countryside Postal at 25941 U.S. 19 N is also in danger of being shut down.

Closure would be an inconvenience for Phyllis Mannino, 66, who mails letters and packages from the location once a week.

"It's a friendly, warm, fast and efficient atmosphere,'' she said.

Phyllis Lewellyn, 54, also is a regular, sending mailings for the nonprofit she helps run.

She likes that it is in the neighborhood.

"I feel it's very busy,'' Lewellyn said. "I can't imagine why it would be one of the ones that closes.''

Eileen Schulte can be reached at schulte@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4153.

Plan to close three Clearwater post offices upsets customers 08/04/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 4, 2009 9:52pm]
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