Toponas post office facing possible closure
October 19, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Like many rural towns, the Toponas community values its post office as an important service, a connection to the outside world and a social center.
But also like many other rural communities, Toponas is facing the possible closure of its post office as the U.S. Postal Service aims to cut costs amid a budget crisis.
The community of about 50 people is prepared to make a case to keep it open.
"We're really fighting this," longtime resident and Toponas Country General Store owner Barbara Gehl said. She and her family also run the rural mail route from Kremmling to South Routt County as Postal Service contractors.
"It would put an undue burden on the citizens. It certainly injures a community, to take the post office away."
Toponas joins Phippsburg, Burns and Bond as part of a closure feasibility study as the Postal Service faces a $10 billion deficit and looks to consolidate services.
Postal Service spokesman David Rupert said the most recent round of closure feasibility studies includes 3,700 post offices nationwide and about 80 in Colorado.
He said the offices were chosen based on declining revenue and workload as well as the proximity to another post office. In the case of Toponas, the Yampa Post Office is 10 miles north on Colorado Highway 131. McCoy and Oak Creek also have post offices.
Rupert said the Postal Service is looking at other options such as a "village post office" in a store or cluster boxes with parcel lockers.
But he's noticed that the smaller the town, the more affinity for a local storefront and the smiling face behind the counter.
"It's a painful process," he said. "They would lose that personal touch, and we understand that."
It's also a long and involved process.
First is a public comment period when the Postal Service accepts letters and input about the possible closure. Then, the Postal Service holds a public meeting in the town, like they did in Phippsburg in early June.
The Toponas meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Toponas Community Club.
The Postal Service will render a decision, and the town can appeal. The second review process can take as long as four months, which is where Phippsburg stands right now.
The Toponas Post Office had about 30 boxes in use according to its postmaster of 15 years, Vicki Laman.
Born in Oak Creek and raised in Toponas, Laman said it's difficult to imagine the town without the post office's hub of community activity.
"I love it. I love the people," Laman said. "I really don't want to see it close."
Laman said forcing residents to go to Yampa to get their mail would be a hardship.
"It's a long way to have to drive," she said.
She said she doesn't know what would happen to her position at the post office if it were to close.
Gehl also is unsure what will happen to her rural mail route if more than half the post offices on her route were closed or restructured.
At about 5:20 a.m. every day, Gehl, her husband or another driver travels to Kremmling to pick up the mail for almost all of South Routt County. She said the mail for Toponas, Burns, Bond and McCoy is distributed through the Toponas Post Office.
At 4:20 p.m. every day, they do the same route in reverse.
She said she understands the post office is in a dire financial position. But to Gehl, closing a rural post office isn't worth the savings.
Rupert said people are passionate about their post offices because it's a uniquely American symbol; it used to be that towns had to have a post office to become incorporated.
"It signified the beginning of a town," he said. "But (closing the post office) doesn't necessarily mean the end of a town."
— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com