Deaver post office on chopping block

The United States Postal Service (USPS) recently added the post office in Deaver to an expanded list of rural post offices that are under consideration for closure. The new list, which was released last week, added 37 additional post offices from small towns in Wyoming to the growing list of rural post offices that may be shut down and replaced with either freestanding outdoor receptacles called “cluster box units” or what USPS is calling a “village system,” where a private business takes over the task of selling postal services as part of their already existing business.

Bill Newton, an 85-year-old resident of Deaver, retrieves his mail from his post office box as part of his daily routine. Patti Carpenter photo

The small rural post office in Deaver currently serves 185 addresses. Seventy-six addresses are serviced through “in-town” boxes located in a small postal building in town. The rest are rural routes serviced by a carrier route driver, who deposits mail in roadside boxes scattered along country roads close to the residences receiving the mail.

The cluster box system is the most likely option for Deaver, since there are no private retail businesses in the town, like a store or café, to take on the responsibility of being the “village” center for the community. According to documents being circulated by USPS, the cluster boxes (CBUs) are “secure, free-standing units of individually locked mail compartments.” The boxes will be provided to customers and will be “installed and maintained by the Postal Service at no cost to customers.”

Eighty-year-old Florence Wambeke rides her bicycle across town to pick up her mail on almost a daily basis. “It’s the only meeting place we have in Deaver, since we don’t have a coffee shop,” said Wambeke. “I’ll miss the bike ride and running into people I know if they take the post office away.”

Eighty-five year old Bill Newton walks to the post office to pick up his mail whenever he can. It’s not just about getting the mail for people like Newton and Wambeke. It’s part of their daily routine of exercise and, for some, may be one of the few times they see their neighbors. Newton has lived in the country all of his life and has always had rural service for his mail.

“I like the post office, but if we can’t afford it, we can’t afford it,” said Newton.

Berta Newton, a local art teacher, said, “It’s really sad since we have such a great postmaster. I would miss the convenience of it because I use it a lot to send out lots of packages.”

Although he would miss the convenience, Deaver resident Paul North “understands” the need for the government to “tighten up” certain services.

“If it can put the post office out of the red and back in the black, I’m all for it,” said North.

Craig Sorenson and Cindy Phillips work at SE Incorporated, one of the larger businesses in Deaver. Although Phillips uses the post office daily she feels it’s not as “integral” anymore to the business.

“A lot of stuff is done through the Internet and also they (the post office) don’t really have a next-day service, which is what we need the most, so we rely more on UPS for that service,” explained Phillips. “I really don’t think we’ll miss it that much because I think we’ll still be able to get mail in and out. So much anymore we pay bills online and do other stuff on line. It’s not like it was maybe 10 years ago.”

Sorenson disagrees. “I don’t think it’s good to lose anything in this town. We’ve already lost our school and I don’t want to lose our post office, too,” he said.

Sorenson pointed out that any time his business sends out documents that need to be postmarked by a certain day, they rely upon the postal service to stamp the date confirming the date the item was mailed.

“What’s a town without a post office?” said Sorenson. “The same thing as a town without a school. I know we’ll be able to handle it, but when people are thinking about moving here, and we’re trying to grow our community, that’s just something people expect see here. The post office is like a badge of growth for a town. I just think it’s a step backwards for us, not a step forward.”

Mayor Fred Yates doesn’t want to see the post office closed but accepts the fact that the town may not control the decision, noting, “I guess if they’re going into the red, they have to stop the bleeding somehow. It’s not going to do our town any good, but there’s really nothing we can do about it.”

USPS will notify residents in the near future about a public meeting that will take place to explain the options to the community and also to get feedback from residents about the closure. The notice will be mailed to postal customers in the area and posted on the bulletin board at the post office.

In the meantime, the residents of Deaver are far from indifferent on the subject. For or against, their opinions about the prospect of losing their post office are as diverse as they are.

By Patti Carpenter