The United States Post Office announced this week that it plans to pare down its network of brick-and-mortar offices around the country, and has initiated studies of 3,700 of its post offices nationwide – including two in southern Ocean County – that could be slated for closure in the future.
Ray Daiutolo, Sr., a regional spokesman for the Postal Service, confirmed that a temporary outlet in Ocean Acres and the post office in Harvey Cedars on Long Beach Island are two of the 37 retail outlets in New Jersey being studied for possible closure.
That the Ocean Acres location could be on the chopping block will likely come as no surprise to locals. The temporary building was closed June 17 in an emergency suspension because it was revealed it was built on protected Green Acres property, said Daiutolo, and the USPS had already decided not to pursue a permanent post office on the site.
Still, he said, “Just because a location would be listed as being studied doesn’t necessarily mean it would be closed.”
The studies will look at several criteria, said Daiutolo, including customer mailing habits at the various locations as well as how a possible closure would affect the surrounding communities.
One thing the USPS does know, he said, is that more customers are using the Internet and non-post office retail locations, like post office shops in grocery stores, to do everything from buy stamps to ship packages. Add that to declining overall use of the postal system and it’s clear that the USPS has to reexamine how it’s using its resources.
After all, the Postal Service pointed out in its press release about the studies, it operates independent of taxpayer dollars, and has to make money off selling postage, products and services to stay afloat.
But Barnegat Committeeman Al Bille, a former postmaster in northern New Jersey, said the possibility of local closures isn’t good news at all.
“Will Barnegat be affected direcly? Perhaps not as far as closing,” he said, but even if Barnegat’s post office isn’t targeted, “nearby towns closing is going to increase the number of people coming to Barnegat.”
And the Web and alternative post office outlets are great, he said, but many seniors and others can’t get used to them, and want to talk to a real person about their mailing options.
Bille said there’s little reason to believe the retail centers marked for study will escape closure. And he doesn’t think the spate of closures is going to stop with this study. “This is by no means the end,” he said.
Bille acknowledged that the USPS is struggling. “Volume is dropping tremendously,” he said, and it follows that some cutbacks will be necessary.
“But the long term, we need universal postal service,” he said. Congress needs to step in and make it easier for the USPS to keep functioning, including freeing it from some of crippling obligatory payments it must make toward future workers’ retirements and benefit. Residents should write their representatives and tell them so, he said.
“The thing that’s important is to get the people fired up,” he said. “If you don’t, eventually they’re going to say, ‘What happened to my post office, and why are there 15 people in my line?’ ”
Daiutolo said getting customer feedback is an important part of the study process. If residents want to weigh in, they should contact their local postmaster.