Two Tampa Bay area post offices, among about 3,700 marked for possible closure nationwide, will remain open.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor delivered the news Wednesday at the Morris Milton post office in St. Petersburg. Castor said the post office in the city's Midtown district, as well as the Produce Station post office in East Tampa, are being spared.
A steady stream of customers flowed into the East Tampa post office Wednesday. Cheryl Hicks, 52, grew up going to the post office with her parents. Now, she runs a house cleaning business and does errands for her customers. She stops by the post office, at 2810 E Hillsborough Ave., usually three times a week.
Josephine Brady, 69, who has lived in East Tampa longer than the Produce Station Post Office has stood at its current location, said its closing had been the talk of her neighborhood.
"I didn't understand, out of all the post offices, this was the one that they picked," she said.
Across the bay, Castor said she had learned from a postal clerk that the St. Petersburg facility is regularly used by walk-up customers, people who are handicapped and others who arrive on bicycles.
She said the post office was off the closure list largely because it is "a linchpin" in the neighborhood's development plan.
"It was a no-brainer for this post office to get off the list,'' Mayor Bill Foster said, adding that those who had made the decision to close the facility didn't "fully understand the full import" of their move.
The St. Petersburg post office had been a long sought amenity in its primarily African-American community, which had also lacked a supermarket and bank until recent years.
Opened in 2005, it bears the name of civil rights lawyer Morris W. Milton, who founded the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida and was a president of the St. Petersburg NAACP branch. His widow, Dorothy Milton, is pleased that the facility will remain open.
"This post office has added value to this community,'' she said.
Watson Haynes, a community leader, called it a historic site, noting that Morris Milton's office had been nearby and that he had fought for the rights of postal workers.
The full-service post office at 1750 16th St. S was hard won. Former Mayor Rick Baker had lobbied for the facility, enlisting the help of then Gov. Jeb Bush and other politicians.
"This piece was central to what we were trying to accomplish,'' said former deputy mayor Goliath Davis, who worked under Baker to bring services to the economically disadvantaged area.
Even as the small group celebrated, Foster said work needs to be done to keep the post office from reappearing on the chopping block. The city and community will have to increase retail traffic, he said. For its part, Foster said the city will work with the property's owner to improve access and parking.
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