U.S. Postal Service to close Brownsville Post Office

postmaster retires

July 28, 2012|By DAN DEARTH |
  • A sign posted on the front door of the Brownsville Post Office notifies customers that the facility is closing July 31.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

Mary Ellen Younkins has operated the Brownsville Post Office out of the first floor of her Boteler Road home since 1979.

That will change on Tuesday.

U.S. Postal Service officials recently announced that they plan to reduce the village’s postmaster position to two hours per day and discontinue the government benefits that go with it.

Younkins said that left her with no other choice.

“It was my decision to leave,” the 60-year-old Younkins said. “I’m just fortunate that I’m old enough and have enough years to retire. I wish there was someone I could pass it on to and continue it in this way.”

Younkins said Brownsville, population about 89, doesn’t have a building designated to serve exclusively as a post office. As a result, the Postal Service leased space in her home and hired her to run the operation.

She said she believed that nobody has stepped forward to take over because they would have to open their home for use as a post office for little money and no benefits.

“No one is waiting in the wings to give it space and work it without fail,” she said.

George Maffett, a U.S. Postal Service spokesman, said in an email that the Postal Service leased the space from Younkins for a little more than $1,200 per year to serve about 50 customers.

He said the residents were notified of the “emergency suspension” through letters and signs at the post office.

“We apologize for any inconvenience this emergency suspension is causing for our Brownsville customers,” Maffett said in the email. “Emergency suspensions by their very nature occur with little notice. The Brownsville Post Office is located in the home of the current postmaster. The postmaster notified us of her intent to retire and requested that the lease be suspended to coincide with her retirement on July 31. As a result, we must suspend services at that location.”

Maffett said that an emergency suspension does not mean that the post office will close permanently.

“The emergency suspension allows us time to find an alternate site or explore opening a Village Post Office (VPO),” he said. “Village Post Offices are operated by community businesses to provide selected postal products and services, including Forever stamps and Priority Mail flat rate packages and envelopes. These retail units may also provide post office boxes either inside or outside the business.”

Since 1824, Brownsville has had a post office in a number of different locations, according to a publication titled “Window to Brownsville.”

Some of the residents said they’ve grown accustomed to the small-town charm of their village post office.

They enter into the foyer of Younkins’ home at 2439 Boteler Road, walk up to a teller window with thin, wooden bars and get their mail. Much of the time, Younkins sees them coming from the front window and has their mail ready to go.

“It’s kind of sad to see it all go,” Brownsville resident Steve Specht said. “After 188 years of having a post office in Brownsville, why now?”

On Thursday, workers contracted by the Postal Service were several houses down from the post office in Specht’s front yard pouring a cement footer for “cluster boxes,” or a group of mailboxes where mail will be delivered to Brownsville residents after July 31.

Residents who live on the outskirts of the village won’t be so lucky.

Addressing the issue

Michael Yourtee, who owns property south of Brownsville, said he’ll have to spend $150 to install a mailbox to receive mail in the future. To send and pick up larger packages, however, he’ll have to make the eight-mile drive to the post office in Brunswick.

He said he understands that the Postal Service is in financial trouble, but he wishes officials had solicited the opinions of the residents before making a final decision.

“They didn’t ask us and that’s terrible,” he said. “We’re not asked, we’re told. We’re not children, we’re taxpayers.”

To make matters worse, he said, residents who have Brownsville mailing addresses and live south and west of the village will have to change their mailing addresses to Knoxville. Those who live to the north will be required to change to Rohrersville.

“The problem is the people weren’t consulted,” Yourtee said. “We didn’t have the chance to say what we’d like and maybe influence the decision.”

Maffett said the Postal Service apologized again for the inconvenience, but it doesn’t determine the physical address of a person’s home.

“Apparently, there are several customers whose homes are not located in Brownsville that will be required to change their addresses to the actual towns in which they reside,” he said. “During the emergency suspension, mail services will be available and delivery to Brownsville residents will be provided by the Brunswick Post Office. Those outside the village limits will need to work with the office responsible for where the county says they actually reside — Rohrersville Post Office for Rohrersville residents and Brunswick Post Office for Knoxville residents.”

Yourtee said he probably would start using the Postal Service less to do personal business.

“I’m considering changing a lot of my mail to computers,” Yourtee said. “I like paper. Some people like computers, but I like paper. I don’t like putting my personal information out on the Internet. But as a result of going to computers, I see the post office losing even more money as more people do that.”

Alice Dixon co-owns Woodenware Inc., a Brownsville-based business that has crafted guitars and cigar humidors for the past three decades.

She said the company uses the Brownsville Post Office to mail packages to customers because it’s right down the street.

“It’s going to make it very much more inconvenient for us,” Dixon said.

She said she might have to increase the cost of her products to compensate for the extra fuel costs if the company chooses to do business with post offices that are farther away.

“That’s certainly a possibility,” she said. “We haven’t thought that far out ahead, but that could happen.”

Boteler Road resident Bruce Payne said he wondered whether the Postal Service’s decision to suspend the Brownsville site was worth the savings.

Rustic appeal

Payne said he believed the town post office represented a large part of Brownsville’s rustic appeal. The decision to suspend it, he said, will cause a “degradation of the rural quality.”

“We will deal with it, but I think it could have been done a lot better,” he said.

Despite having the cluster boxes built in his front yard, Specht said he will miss hanging a right out of his driveway to take the short walk down the street to pick up his mail.

“I am disappointed that we won’t have a nice place to go and meet people in the community on wintry days ... I’m a little nostalgic about losing that,” he said.

His wife, Sheri Specht, agreed.

“Brownsville’s had a post office since the 1820s,” she said. “It’s been back and forth, and it’s kind of a community meeting area. It’s the only social place that’s left around since a couple of other things left town. Now, it’s gone, too. I feel sad about that.”

After 33 years as postmaster, Younkins said she would miss working at the post office, especially serving a close-knit group of customers who have become close friends.

“I would prefer having a post office like this to go to. It’s always across the counter, always face to face” Younkins said. “I’ll miss it. There aren’t too many places you can’t work and live, and this place is one of them.”

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