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10 Ways to Fight for Your Local Post Office

You may have heard that the United States Postal Service (USPS) is suffering from some serious debt. They are projected to rack up a deficit of over $18 billion (yes, that’s billion with a “b”) next year alone. So, they are trying to cut costs any way they can: considering ending Saturday mail delivery, not replacing thousands of retiring postal workers, asking Congress to drop their mandate to pre-fund billions in retiree health benefits, terminating building leases, and selling their post office buildings or “relocating” their services to a new building.

And unfortunately for people in impacted communities, they’re not always forthcoming about their plans, so it’s critical for the public to get involved, know their rights, and be persistent. If the USPS decides to sell or relocate a historic post office in your town, here are ten steps you can take to protect it.


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10 Ways to Fight for Your Local Post Office

  2. 2. Find out if your post office is threatened. USPS Properties for Sale is the official list of post offices being sold, but watch for other signs like mailed surveys about local postal services or posted legal notices about public meetings. You can also ask your local postmaster for information on the building’s status.
  3. 3. Know your rights. USPS regulations and U.S. Code are very clear about the procedures for relocating, discontinuing, or suspending service at a post office, and what role the public can play in making those decisions. The more you know, the more effective you can be. Check out the National Association of Postmasters of the United States (NAPUS) and its Post Office Red Book for useful information.
  4. 4. Don’t wait to get involved. Residents and postal customers need to speak up as early as possible to make themselves heard. Ask your postmaster, city manager, alderman, or other elected officials if they’re aware of any plans to close or relocate your post office. If USPS has released a proposal for closure or relocation of your post office, the public has 60 days to comment on that proposal and how it affects them.
  5. 5. Bring friends to the party. Many groups in your community will likely be interested in preserving your post office. Reach out to business owners or business groups, the chamber of commerce, your preservation commission, fraternal organizations, historical societies, church groups, your Main Street organization, city officials and staff, and local schools to grow your strength in numbers.
  6. 6. Use the media. Keep local outlets apprised of any activity around your post office, whether it’s the distribution of a questionnaire, a public meeting hosted by USPS, a planning meeting of local advocates, a notice from USPS about a proposal or a decision, or even a rally that you stage to protest USPS’ actions.
  7. 7. Show up. USPS usually convenes at least one public meeting to gather public input on a proposed closure or relocation, and it is absolutely critical to have a good turnout at that meeting from post office customers, city officials, community leaders, and concerned citizens.
  8. 8. Become a Consulting Party. If your post office is in a historic building, the National Historic Preservation Act requires the USPS to consult with interested parties. Nonprofit organizations or members of the public with a “demonstrated interest” can take part by composing a formal letter to the agency’s Federal Preservation Officer. Make sure to emphasize why you or your group is interested, and copy your State Historic Preservation Officer.
  9. 9. Lobby your legislators. Your state and federal senators and representatives can be some of your best allies. Call, send a letter, or—best of all—schedule a meeting. Bring materials that includes a brief summary of the situation, correspondence from USPS, formal responses from city officials or local advocates, and press highlights. Then, ask them to support you with a letter opposing the USPS’ proposed action.
  10. 10. Appeal the decision. Even if you rally the troops and take all the right steps, it’s still possible that USPS will still decide to sell or relocate your local post office. But that’s not the end of the road! You can—and should— appeal that decision to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC).
  11. 11. Help find a new use. Even if your post office is ultimately listed for sale, it’s still an important part of your town. Ensure that the building goes into responsible hands and continues to serve your community by: • identifying possible public and private owners and sending them information about the property • researching and sharing suggestions for compatible new uses that will preserve the most important features and spaces of the building • locating nonprofit groups in your city or state that are qualified to hold an easement or covenant on the building
  12. 12. The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America’s historic places. Preservation Tips & Tools helps others do the same in their own communities. For more information, visit blog.preservationnation.org. Photos courtesy: Slides 1, 2, 4, 8, 10: National Trust for Historic Preservation; Slides 5 & 7: Daniel Arauz/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0; Slide 6: Rick Bonetti/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0.