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Residents of tiny Aripeka will keep their post office after new agreement

ARIPEKA —In this tiny fishing town where nothing much changes, even the conflict this summer was nothing new: Five years after a disagreement that led to the closure of the town's post office, word circulated that the office was set to close again. That scenario has shaken out this time much as it did in 2013, with a deal to keep the post office running in a place where many residents still don't get home mail delivery.

Lifelong resident Carl Norfleet saved the post office in 2013 after a disagreement between the previous property owner and the U.S. Postal Service left the town without a post office for several weeks, forcing some residents to go to Hudson to collect their mail. Norfleet bought the property and struck a new deal.

But earlier this month, he said the Postal Service was late on rent and had proposed an unreasonable new lease. He didn't expect to renew the deal.

All that changed in the past week, Norfleet said.

"I made an offer to them," he said. "I'll extend the old lease without some of the new, egregious clauses in it."

He was frustrated by changes that included insurance conditions he said would keep him from making a return on the property. He bemoaned interactions with the Postal Service that he felt were belittling and said it owes him nearly a year's worth of rent.

The new agreement, he said Tuesday, keeps the conditions of the old lease with one exception: He can evict them for any reason with 30 days notice.

"They're not going to jerk me around like last time, or they'll be out on their butts," Norfleet said. "I'm 76 years old, and I don't have to put up with that nonsense anymore."

Asked for comment, a Postal Service spokeswoman provided a statement identical to the one the agency gave earlier this month about the post office's potential downfall: "The Postal Service continues to work closely with the lessor to reach an agreement that is acceptable to both parties."

Norfleet said he's not exactly enthusiastic to keep dealing with the Postal Service, but residents have responded to the new deal with relief and joy. For him, that's reason enough.

"The only thing that I cared about was getting this post office for the people," he said.

Contact Jack Evans at Follow @JackHEvans.