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Sarasota Friday, Aug. 21, 2009 6 years ago

Residents fight to keep post office

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by: Robin Roy City Editor

More than two-dozen Southgate residents and business owners crowded the Siesta Drive post office Friday morning, waiting to hear word about the possible closure of their postal branch.

“This post office is so convenient for us,” said Southgate resident Joan Atchley. “I love the location.”

The U.S. Postal Service has put the Southgate branch, which employs 24 people, on a list of more than 600 post offices nationwide that are at risk of closure as part of a cost-cutting tactic. It’s the only location in Sarasota on the list.

Greg Jackson, Sarasota’s postmaster, said the primary reason Southgate is at risk is because it leases, not owns, its space, and the Postal Service is looking to shed its leases.

District 13 Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, met with Jackson and U.S. Postal Service officials at the Southgate branch Friday morning in an effort to keep the post office open.

“I never realized the impact a post office has on a community,” said Buchanan. “It’s huge.”

Postal Service spokesman Gary Sawtelle said a decision whether to close the branch could come within 90 days.

“We’re still early in the process,” said Sawtelle. “We don’t want to close them, but we’re in a tough financial situation.”

The Postal Service’s economic woes were not much comfort to those who have come to rely on the Siesta Drive post office.

“I bought into this neighborhood because it’s a walking neighborhood,” said Southgate resident Joann Atkins. “We walk to the post office. We walk to the mall. We walk to the restaurants. This (post office) is the fabric of the neighborhood.”

Buchanan vowed to do what he could.

“Our goal is to keep the post office from advancing further (on the postal service’s cut list),” he said.

Contact Robin Roy at rroy@yourobserver.com
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