By Rich Pollack

It has been a convenience, a place to go to mail packages or get your tax return in the mail without having to fight long lines and big crowds.

Now, however, it appears that the small community post office tucked in behind Town Hall and operated by the town of Highland Beach will close on May 15 after 60 years.

The decision to close the post office, which operates much like the commercial contract post offices sprinkled among nearby shopping centers, comes following a decision by the U.S. Postal Service to remove its credit card processing machine, combined with a decision by the town’s postal clerk to retire after 24 years.

In one of the rare splits among a normally united board, town commissioners voted 3-2 to close the post office, which has been a cash-only operation since mid-April, with Vice Mayor David Stern and Commissioner Donald Peters voting against the shutdown.

“You never like to see a service diminish, but there are circumstances beyond our control,” said Commissioner Judith Goldberg.

In a notice to residents, town leaders said that about 90% of all transactions at the post office are done by credit card and that the number of cash payments is limited.

“The USPS’s recent decision to discontinue the acceptance of credit cards has presented significant and insurmountable challenges,” town leaders wrote in the public notice. “The conditions imposed by the USPS to use our own credit card machine are unmanageable and highly inefficient.”

Town Manager Marshall Labadie said that the town is continuing to look for ways to work around the post office’s new policies but added that the requirement to provide receipts on a daily basis proved insurmountable.

“We would have to send a check for total receipt every day,” he said, adding that the town would be required to reconcile the transactions, create a check request, process the request and have staff sign off on the request, print the check and then have either two commissioners or himself and a commissioner sign the check.

“All of this would have to be done between 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. every day,” he said.

Town leaders said that they have been unable to speak with anyone from the postal service regarding the issue despite numerous requests, leaving some to suspect that the post office would prefer not to have the town’s post office open.

“It sounds like they don’t want to do this,” said Commissioner Evalyn David.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service said that Highland Beach did not renew its contract, but town officials said that was only after they received the letter discontinuing the credit card machine.

The spokesperson said that the post office is open to creating a contract post office nearby and is taking steps to let customers know of the Highland Beach Post Office closing.

“In order to minimize disruptions to our valued customers, local postal management is taking steps to notify customers about the closure and provide them with options for their mailing needs,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.

While Commissioners David and Goldberg and Mayor Natasha Moore favored closing the post office, saying it was a business decision that made sense, both Stern and Peters suggested that the town look at possible ways to keep it open.

“It’s like an old community post office like years ago,” Peters said.

Town leaders factored in the upcoming retirement of longtime postal clerk Valerie Jacoby, who staffs the post office along with part-time help, in making their decision to close the station after Labadie pointed out that hiring and training a replacement for Jacoby would be time-consuming.

In the public notice, the town also pointed out that closing the post office would save about $150,000 a year and would provide much-needed additional daytime parking spaces.
While it appears the town’s post office will be closing, Labadie did leave the door open to bringing the matter back to the commission should the postal service adjust its policies.

“We are continuing to exhaust all options,” he said.

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  • Town is becoming a mini Boca and seems to be Commissioners plan.   Should have polled community before voted- out of touch.

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