BROOKSVILLE — Two months ago, the U.S. Postal Service announced it was looking to close up to 3,700 branches across the country.
On the list were two locations of interest to residents and businesses in Hernando County: the downtown Brooksville post office on Fort Dade Avenue and the tiny postal outpost in Istachatta, in the northeast corner of the county.
Last month, the Postal Service sent 11,000 notices to Brooksville residents informing them that they would have the opportunity to express their concerns during a meeting from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Moose Lodge at 17129 Wiscon Road, south of Brooksville.
While a decision whether to close the downtown facility and consolidate operations at Hernando County's main post office on the State Road 50 truck route is months away, Postal Service spokeswoman Enola Rice said that feedback from customers is important to the agency as it considers its options.
Faced with a projected $10 billion deficit, the Postal Service has been forced to look at ways to trim costs. That effort involves looking at consolidating resources where possible and moving toward the concept of "village post offices" in supermarkets and gas stations, where basic services can be provided at a lower cost.
"Like every business these days, we're looking for ways to save money," Rice said. "If we don't, we won't be able to survive."
Rice stressed that every branch on the agency's target list will get a fair hearing before any decision is made. The Postal Service isn't planning to close any facility before December.
"We certainly realize that people become very attached to their local post offices," Rice said. "That's why every viewpoint will be considered."
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.
In operation since the early 1960s, the Fort Dade Avenue facility was once the city's largest post office with about 20 employees. But in 1987, the larger main post office opened about 3 miles away on the city's southwest side. Rice said that competition between the two branches is the likely reason postal officials are eyeing the closure of the downtown station.
Brooksville City Council member Lara Bradburn said that closing a post office branch in the heart of the county seat doesn't make sense. She also wonders why Monday's meeting will be the only hearing on the issue and why the Postal Service didn't schedule it in a more convenient location for city residents.
"It's a total disregard for our citizens," Bradburn said. "It's as if they want to exclude us from the dialogue."
Rice said that if a decision is ultimately made to discontinue the downtown station, post office box customers will have the option of relocating their box to the main post office facility or receiving delivery to their home or business.
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.