October 25, 2014

Elyria
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South Lorain residents rally to save post office

The post office on East 28th Street in South Lorain is slated to close Dec. 7. (CT photo by Steve Manheim.)

The post office on East 28th Street in South Lorain is slated to close Dec. 7. (CT photo by Steve Manheim.)

LORAIN — “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Budget cuts, however, are a different story.

Faced with a crippling requirement to pre-fund $5.5 billion in employee health benefits annually, declining mail volume due to the Internet and competition from for-profit package delivery companies with flexible rates, the U.S. Postal Service is downsizing, with the South Lorain post office among the proposed closings.

Opponents of the closing may need to adopt the attitude of the Postal Service’s unofficial motto in their uphill battle to keep it open. They’re swimming against a tide of red ink.

The closing, set to occur Dec. 7, is part of $2 billion in cuts this year and $9 billion over the last two fiscal years, according to the Postal Service website. The Postal Service lost $2.28 billion in the second quarter — the federal fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 — according to Postal Service’s May 10 financial statement.

Decreasing revenue is tied to decreasing mail volume. Last year the Postal Service processed 170.6 billion pieces of mail and is projecting processing about 168 billion this year, according to Postal Service spokesman Victor Dubina. Volume is projected to decline by 150 billion pieces by 2020. “The trend since 2006 is steadily downward,” Dubina said Sunday.

The South Lorain post office is one of three satellites — known as branches or stations — of the main Lorain post office at 439 W. Fourth St. The others are at 4214 Ivanhoe Ave. in Sheffield Lake and 350 N. Leavitt Road in Amherst.

Dubina said the revenue for the three is only 65 percent of operating expenses for area operations, which include the salaries of area mail carriers.

“If we want to keep the Postal Service in existence five, 10 years down the road, some hard decisions have got to be made,” said Dubina, adding that he’s sympathetic to opponents’ concerns.

If the closing occurs, Dubina noted that customers could use the postal facility at 3390 Colorado Ave., about 4 miles from the South Lorain post office. Area stores sell stamps, and bills can be paid online.

The City Council this evening is expected to approve a symbolic resolution opposing the closing. Opponents such as Councilman Eddie Edwards, D-Ward 5, counter that many of the post office’s customers are elderly and don’t drive, and some younger customers don’t have cars or computers. Edwards argues that the post office is busy and pays for itself.

“People have to stand up and fight,” he said. “You have to push back, and don’t you fall for anything.”

The closing would be part of a pattern of closings in South Lorain in past decades from big box stores, to supermarkets to hardware stores, said Councilwoman Anne Molnar, D-at large, who opposes the closing. Opponents plan a Sept. 17 rally outside the post office at 1680 E. 28th St.

“I would like to see the entire block filled with people,” said Molnar who’s lived in South Lorain for about 55 years. “We don’t have anything left here.”

Edwards and Molnar have sought assistance from U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Copley Township, and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Avon. Brown is a member of the Appropriations Committee, but Congress does not have the power of the purse strings over the Postal Service. The Postal Service, which had annual revenue of some $67 billion last year, has been almost entirely self-funded for about 30 years.

Despite declining volume and private sector competition, the Postal Service would be running surpluses if not for the pre-funding requirement, which no other federal agency has and is unheard of in the private sector. Dubina said the Postal Service warned about the unintended consequences of the requirement, which was part of a 2006 law passed by Congress that Brown voted for.

Brown spokeswoman Lauren Kulik wrote in an email that Brown opposes the South Lorain closing and that the requirement was meant to protect postal worker’s benefits.

“The mail business, along with many other American businesses, was hit hard by the recession,” Kulik wrote. “The consequences of the pre-funding requirements could not be forseen as it (was) in 2005-06.”

The numbers

Opponents of closing the South Lorain post office have started a petition drive and plan a Sept. 17 rally there. However, they face an uphill battle with the U.S. Postal Service facing big losses and high costs.

  • $67 billion: annual revenue in 2010.
  • $8.5 billion: losses in 2010.
  • $2.28 billion: second quarter losses.
  • $6.4 billion: projected losses for 2011.
  • $5.5 billion: annual pre-funding requirement for employee health benefits.
  • 150 billion: projected loss of mail volume by 2020.
  • 65%: operating revenues for area operations covered by the South Lorain post office and three other satellites of the main Lorain post office at 439 W. Fourth St.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.