By Mary Thurwachter
In a small town rich with community spirit, talk of closing the lone post office really rankles residents. That’s what’s happening in Lantana, where the downtown office faces extinction.
Debbie Fetterly, spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service for the South Florida District, said that of the 13 locations in South Florida being considered for closure, there is more local interest in the Lantana office than any other. Nationwide, 677 locations are being studied.
“Overall, South Florida shippers have seen a 16 percent reduction in mail volume compared to the same time last year,” Fetterly said. But decline or not, locals have not lessened their love for the post office in Lantana. “We have a petition at the library (next door to the post office) and a large traffic sign in front of the office asking residents to help save the post office,” said Lantana Town Manager Mike Bornstein.
“We’already got more than 1,100 signatures.”
South Palm Beach resident Daniel Colangelo, a regular customer for 25 years, was collecting signatures, too. “This is so convenient,” he said. “It just doesn’t make sense to shut it down.” Support is also coming from neighboring communities of Manalapan and Hypoluxo.
Bornstein agrees. “Our goal is to make it as clear as possible that the people here love our post office and want to keep it,” he said. “It’s the heart of our downtown.” Mayor David Stewart mailed a letter to U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, urging the post office be saved, and Klein, in turn, sent off a letter of his own to John E. Porter, postmaster general of the U.S. Postal Service.
Despite all the affection surrounding the little brick building at 201 W. Ocean Ave., the fact is that mail volumes throughout the country have experienced historic declines over the past few years as e-mail edges out snail mail and competition from various other sources, like automated postal centers, click-n-ship online postage and mailing labels, contract postal units and approved shippers.
Fetterly said there will be a study and that community members will have a chance to share their views through a public meeting or with questionnaires. Nothing will happen, not even the feasibility study, she said, until the beginning of the next fiscal year on Oct. 1.
And, she stressed, all this examination doesn’t necessarily mean closure. “We may move carriers from one unit to another or make other changes.”
Bornstein has his fingers crossed. “The post office is part of our history here,” he said. Just like the Barefoot Mailman. And the city manager knows plenty about the Barefoot Mailman, who walked from Palm Beach to Miami barefoot along the hard sand at the ocean’s edge from 1885 to 1893. Bornstein recreates the trip periodically to teach children and others about the rich piece of Florida’s history.
Lantana Post Office stats
• During the winter, the office averages 2,058 customer visits a week or between 400 to 470 a day. During the off-season, the office averages 1,474 transactions a week or between 300 and 350 a day.
• There are 957 boxes and customers have 24/7 access to them.
• The closest office is 2.5 miles away in Lake Worth at 720 Lucerne Ave. The second closest is 4.3 miles away in Boynton at 217 N. Seacrest. Blvd.
• The facility is leased and has served the Lantana community since the mid-1970s and has been occupied by the Postal Service more than 30 years. Three people work the windows.
Mary Thurwachter is a West Palm Beach freelance writer and founder/producer of INNsideFlorida.com (www.innsideflorida.com)