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Post office in limbo

South Laguna residents were more than a little P.O.’d to learn they might lose their post office.

The Santa Ana District of the U.S. Postal Service informally notified the city in a letter dated Oct. 26 that a feasibility study and customer survey will be conducted in South Laguna and evaluated as part of a “Station and Branch Optimization and Consolidation Initiative” — read closures. The South Laguna Civic Assn. is taking steps to block the move to shut down their local branch.

“We sure don’t want it closed,” association President Bill Rihn said.

The association is circulating a petition opposing the closure, which will be submitted to the City Council in an effort to drum up official support.

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“We are also trying to get in touch with everyone we can in the postal service,” Rihn said. “It’s kind of a chore because they are hard to identify.”

Councilwoman Verna Rollinger raised the issue at the Sept. 1 meeting, reporting that South Laguna residents’ requests for statistical information on the use of the branch were being resisted.

Rollinger asked City Manager Ken Frank if he thought a call from him would be helpful.

“Doubt it,” Frank said. “But I will be happy to call. I have been told [the branch] is losing money.”

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The letter from the Santa Ana district directed to Mayor Kelly Boyd and signed by District Manager Gerard Ahern specifically blamed the economy for a dramatic decline in mail volume and net losses in the billions in the past two years.

Ahern also noted that changes in business practices have affected the postal service. Not so long ago, he wrote, virtually all postal retail transactions required a visit to a post office retail window. Now nearly 30% of all transactions are conducted using alternate methods, including the postal service’s own website, Ahern wrote.

Rihn said the association will contact the owner of the building that houses the South Laguna post office to determine if a rent increase was proposed and if so, urge the owner not to make the increase, maybe even reduce the rent, to eliminate that excuse for closing the branch.

The association has been assured that that no action will be taken by the post office until the neighborhood is surveyed, although he is not sure he believes it, Rihn said.

“This is the first step in a process that could lead to the closure of that station, particularly since the lease of the building expires next March,” Frank advised the council in his Oct. 30 Friday Memorandum.

Following an evaluation of the data, a district recommendation will be forwarded to the Pacific Area. After that review a recommendation will be directed to the national headquarters.

If a closure is approved by the headquarters, the public and branch employees will be notified, with the branch to be shut down no sooner than 60 days from the date of the approval.



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