Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Residents rally to save tiny Balm post office

BALM — The fate of the tiny Balm post office drew a crowd so large that officials had to hold a meeting around the parking lot flagpole to discuss the possibility of closing it down.

About 60 residents of this rural community turned out Wednesday morning to voice their opposition. Some tried impassioned pleas, while others said better cost-saving methods are available. The closest alternative is Wimauma, more than 5 miles away, and some predicted closure would adversely affect businesses and harm disabled people and migrant workers who have no transportation.

Glenda O'Brien of Balm said the post office is a historic landmark that carries on traditions of community camaraderie that date to a bygone era.

"You hug people here," she said. "We don't have this anymore. This is all we have of that world."

Others agreed.

"This is the core of the community; this is the identity of Balm," said Gerald Davis, who noted he was born on the other side of Balm Road from the post office. "I think that should be considered."

Gary Sawtelle, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service's Tampa district, said the facility dates to 1902. It is among 2,000 branches nationwide being eyed for closure as more people turn to Internet services and postal revenues plummet.

"The post office this year will run out of money in October," he said. "We won't be able to make payroll."

Consolidating postal services is just one option, said Leroy Middleton, Tampa operations manager for the Postal Service. About 7,500 management positions are being eliminated, he said.

A decision is expected to be made in late July. If officials target Balm for closure, the building would close no earlier than October, Sawtelle said. It is the only station being considered for closure in Hillsborough County.

Among those who turned out to protest was Elizabeth "Pooka" Sweat, 91, who served as postmaster from 1948 to 1981. She said the possible closing made her sad.

Sawtelle said after the meeting that conservative estimates indicate that closing the Balm station would save about $650,000 over 10 years. He and other officials promised to consider crowd suggestions that included cutting back window service hours.

He declined to say specifically what landed Balm on the list of potential closings, but he said officials generally look at revenues, expenses and proximity to other post office facilities. The branch offers 420 rental boxes — no delivery — with 264 boxes leased to customers.

The Balm branch employs a postmaster and relief employee on Saturdays, Sawtelle said. Barb Fiske of Balm said she also would lose her job cleaning the office if it closes.

If the Balm office closes, residents could transfer their boxes to Wimauma, retaining the same address, or opt for street delivery from Wimauma or Riverview, postal representatives said. Glen Fiske, vice president of the Balm Civic Association, said he does not want to run the risk of stolen mail by using a box on the street.

Danny Dixon of Balm said he drove from the Balm post office to the Wimauma and Riverview facilities that offer the closest alternatives and figured daily trips to either branch would add more than 3,000 miles to his odometer each year.

"That's two round trips to Evansville, Ind., in a year's time," he told officials.

He questioned whether the costs of adding Balm post office box customers to rural route delivery would exceed projected savings, noting that he has a relative who carries mail on a rural route who uses $75 worth of gas a day and has to have brake repair every two or three months.

Susan Marschalk Green can be reached at hillsnews@sptimes.com.

Residents rally to save tiny Balm post office 04/14/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 14, 2011 4:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Encounters: Trial by storm for a rookie principal

    K12

    DUNEDIN — When he nodded off to sleep, the hallway lights outside Michael Vasallo's office were on, so the sudden darkness woke him.

    The glow of his desk phone dimmed.

    Michael Vasallo, right, the first-year principal at Dunedin Highland Middle School, talks with the school's head plant operator Clint Case near the back-up generator on campus. The generator failed just as Hurricane Irma passed through Pinellas County, making for a stressful night. The experience made Vasallo long to return to his regular job, educating middle schoolers. [COLEEN WRIGHT   |   Times]


  2. Who is in charge during a hurricane? Hillsborough County and Tampa still can't agree

    Hurricanes

    TAMPA — Who has the authority to order an evacuation during a hurricane?

    Mayor Bob Buckhorn says he has evacuation authority.
  3. Gators rally past Kentucky, streak hits 31

    Blogs

    LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second week in a row, Florida found itself storming the field in a game that came down to the last second. A 57-yard field-goal attempt by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis came just a few feet short of making history and snapping a 30-year losing streak, as the No. 20 Gators escaped a …

    Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.
  4. Pen makes it way too interesting as Rays hang on for 9-6 win

    Blogs

    A couple of home runs provided the news pegs of the night for the Rays, but it was more topical to talk about what nearly happened as they hung on for a 9-6 win over the Orioles.

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season, as well as his …

  5. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.