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.
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- The Southgate Post Office sits on Siesta Drive, just off Tamiami Trail near Bee Ridge Road; one of the busiest commercial intersections in Sarasota, Florida. For over fifty years it has served not only the local community, but also those on Siesta Key coming north onto the mainland via Siesta Drive, and others as far away as I-75.
This busy Post Office is the anchor to a plaza with a number of small businesses. Within ten minutes walking distance are a grocery store, deli, bakery, pharmacies, banks, an elementary school and a middle school, restaurants of all types, a barber, and service and repair shops for your car. A shopping mall is across the street, and laundry, dry cleaning and hardware used to be close, but are a bit farther away now.
Just about everything you need is close at hand to this Post Office. This area defines what Sarasota neighborhoods are supposed to be; what American neighborhoods are supposed to be like. It is one of the key reasons people buy homes here. New families love the schools, seniors love being able to walk safely to the Post Office and other shops.
The only reason put forward for the closing of this post office is that it is in a leased building. It has been there for decades. It could have been in a permanent building years ago. This decision to close this office was made purely on money. Isn’t our government meant to serve? This decision was not made about service. Its loss will weaken the community, and provide more work for other already overburdened facilities nearby.
I urge each of you to contact your legislators and the postmaster to stop this unfair and misguided closing.
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