Spring Hill post office waits as possible closure looms

SPRING HILL — Alice Sheers has used the Spring Hill Plaza post office regularly since she moved to Hernando County more then two decades ago.

"I've always liked coming here," the 85-year-old New York native said last week. "It's not too far from my home."

But Sheers may soon have to find another one. The post office at 7341 Spring Hill Drive is one of 13 Tampa Bay locations — and nearly 1,000 nationwide — that may close in the near future as the U.S. Postal Service cuts costs.

"We are looking at a lot of different factors and making a decision about which to close," said Gary Sawtelle, a spokesman for the Postal Service.

The news came as a shock to Sheers, who said using one of Spring Hill's other branches would be inconvenient. But she said she understands that the economy is taking its toll on everyone.

The Postal Service, which receives no tax dollars, has seen tough times, Sawtelle said, with a projected loss of $7 billion this year. This figure is up from a $2 billion loss in 2008.

Sawtelle said the Postal Service has seen a sharp drop in mail circulating throughout the nation.

"We are seeing almost 30 billion pieces of mail less than what we saw two years ago," he said.

The biggest problem facing the Postal Service is the economy, which has hit some of the largest users of mail fairly hard; the banking industry is one example.

"Banks were one of our biggest customers, but things have changed very quickly,'' he said.

In an effort to offset the large revenue loss, the Postal Service has laid off workers and increased stamp prices, to little avail. The closure of some locations could save billions and may get the postal agency back on its feet.

Sawtelle said the agency came up with the list by identifying where multiple branches overlap. Post offices in rural areas are not on the list. A month of review will decide which offices remain.

"Each office will be reviewed individually," Sawtelle said, "and (we) will take into account factors such as service standards, cost savings, customer access, real estate values, impact on employees and long-term needs of the Postal Service."

In the meantime, none of the branches will be shut down before Sept. 30, making Sheers a little more optimistic that her favorite post office will remain untouched.

"I'll hope they will leave it just the way it is," she said.

Ryan Strong can be reached at (352) 848-1432 or rstrong@sptimes.com.

Fast facts

What's next?

Thirteen Tampa Bay locations are under review by the postal board for consolidation. A shorter list is expected in a few months, but no changes will come before late September. The office at 7341 Spring Hill Drive in Spring Hill is the lone Hernando County location under review.

Spring Hill post office waits as possible closure looms 08/09/09 [Last modified: Sunday, August 9, 2009 7:32pm]

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