Newton residents packed City Hall Wednesday night to express their opposition to the US Postal Service's proposal to close five branches in the city.
James Holland, postmaster for Boston, answered questions for nearly an hour and a half at the first of two public meetings. The meeting focused on the potential closing of three branches in West Newton, Newton Upper Falls, and Boston College.
A second meeting at City Hall on Nov. 22 will discuss the potential closing of branches at Nonantum and Lower Falls.
The Postal Service is considering closing 3,700 branches around the country, 43 in Massachusetts, to help address a budget deficit of nearly $10 billion, Holland said.
“This is a really large turnout and you're going to get another 50 people in November, so you can see how important this is to Newton,” said Ruthanne Fuller, Alderman at Large for Ward 7. “You said there are 3,700 post offices that you are considering. Five are in Newton. I know that is disproportionate. Do the math, this is way out of line with who these represent.”
Holland said the criteria for closing a post office include making less than $600,000 in revenue, five or more alternative access points where people can buy stamps within a two-mile radius, and a declining revenue base over the last couple of years.
According to figures from the US Postal Service, the Newton Upper Falls branch brought in $473,588 in revenue in 2007. It has since seen a steady decline, down to $467,082 in 2010. Eliminating the branch would save the Postal Service 251,775 in operational savings after the first year and more than $2.3 million over 10 years.
The West Newton branch created a higher revenue total in 2010 than it did in 2009. In 2010, the branch generated $573,859 versus $564,419 in 2009. Still, the revenue generated in 2010 is nearly $20,000 less than what it was in 2007. Closing the branch would save $557,049 in first year operating savings and an estimated $5.2 million over 10 years.
The Boston College branch created $201,317 of revenue in 2007 versus $127,838 in 2010. With the branches closing, the U.S. Postal Service would save $68,415 in first year operating savings and an estimated $578,705 over 10 years.
If the branches do close, Upper Falls residents will be assigned to the Newton Centre branch, West Newton residents will be assigned to the Newtonville branch, and Boston College students and residents will be assigned to the Chestnut Hill branch.
Residents with a P.O Box at a closed branch will not lose their P.O Box or their zip code, said Holland. The box would be moved to the new location, with no additional costs.
One of the biggest issues brought up was the sense of community when going to the post office, which would be lost with the closing of the branches. Several people said part of the experience of going to the post office was everybody knowing each other by name.
Several people at the meeting expressed concern that local businesses would also be affected with the loss of the branches.
“The real problem is the cascade effect on local businesses.” said Tedd Hess-Mahan, Alderman at Large for Ward 3, who was particularly concerned about the closing of the West Newton branch. “If I don’t have that local post office and it is too much of an inconvenience, or the traffic, or for whatever reason the time, I’m not going to go to the post office anymore. I’m going to order it online and it is going to get shipped from Kansas, to my niece in Maine. That seems insane to me.”
Other residents were concerned about the difficulty of getting to the newly designated branches due to traffic and city configuration.
“Upper Falls is on the other side of Route 9, where traffic is unbelievable,” said a resident.
“We have to cross Route 9 in horrendous traffic, to go some place where there is no parking, where the office is across the street,” said a resident who uses the Upper Falls branch.
“Terrible,” another resident replied.
“During the holidays its going to be an absolute horror show to park,” said a local business owner from Upper Falls.
Tom Keady, Vice President of Governmental Affairs at Boston College, said he was disappointed the Boston College branch may close. He said the school has been very cooperative with the U.S. Postal Service, advertising the service at football games and showing the branch on the campus tour. He said losing the branch would negatively affect students on campus.
Alderman Fuller shared Keady’s sentiments. “There are a lot of students and a lot of packages and for the vast majority of them it is really hard to get to the other post offices,” she said.
A questionnaire was sent out by the U.S. Postal Service to all residents who share the same zip code as the potentially closing branch. Residents have until a deadline to submit the questionnaire, where they can express their thoughts on the closings. If a resident has not received a questionnaire, they can pick one up at the post office.
The deadline for Boston College residents to submit the questionnaire for consideration is December 25th and December 28th for West Newton and Newton Upper Falls residents.
Questionnaires can be sent to:
P.O. Box 16
25 Dorchester Ave.
Boston, MA 02205
The second meeting to discuss the potential closing of branches at Nonantum and Lower Falls is set for 6 p.m. on November 22nd at the same location.
Derek McLean can be reached at email@example.com.
Follow us on Twitter: @NewtonUpdate