Steamboat Springs Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that Louise Iacovetto has lived in Phippsburg for 86 years.
The United States Postal Service will take into account public comments and cost analysis and issue a proposal on whether to close the post office within about three weeks.
The proposal will be posted for 60 days, after which USPS headquarters in Washington will make the final decision.
Residents can appeal the decision, and USPS will review any appeals for up to 120 days.
About 60 Phippsburg residents and representatives from Routt County filled the pews of the South Routt Bible Church on Wednesday in support of the Phippsburg post office.
Marcela Rivera, review coordinator at the United States Postal Service, led the meeting that opened up the floor for questions and comments regarding the possible closure or consolidation of the post office.
The process began last month when a letter was sent to box holders stating that their post office was one of several being studied for possible discontinuance because of declining workload and the proximity to another post office in Oak Creek.
Rivera stated at the beginning of the meeting that every community seems to rally around its post office.
“I understand this is very personal for you,” she said. “I’ve been to many communities that are very passionate about the post office as the center of their community.”
Still, with the post office facing an $8 billion deficit, discontinuance studies such as the one surrounding the Phippsburg post office are happening at an accelerated rate.
Wednesday’s audience shared varying concerns on the discontinuance of the post office, most of which related to the town’s senior population and its needs.
Routt County Sheriff’s Office deputy Clark Kreger said the main concern for law enforcement was the safety of residents driving in difficult conditions if they were required to travel the 3.6 miles down Colorado Highway 131 to the Oak Creek post office to receive or send mail.
“We respond to calls about run-offs, vehicle crashes on a daily basis in the winter,” he said. “In South Routt, if not a daily occurrence, it would be multiple times a week. One-fifth of the people who use the post office here are 70 years old and above. Four miles may not seem like a lot to us, but it is to them. To have maybe one incident caused by this would take a deputy away from something else.”
Rivera said the Postal Service would explore several options in the discontinuance study.
One possibility is to look at the cost savings of providing home delivery on existing rural mail routes where possible. Another possibility is cluster boxes and parcel lockers stationed around the area. She also mentioned that several retail services are offered online.
But the audience was concerned with some of those options, and many members cited the excessive snow and harsh weather that blankets South Routt in winter.
Ralph Bracegirdle of the Yampa Fire Protection District said even with cluster boxes, the fire department would be concerned with the safety of the residents — especially seniors — walking to get their mail without a place to warm up.
County Manager Tom Sullivan represented the Routt County Board of Commissioners at the meeting, and he brought with him a letter from commissioners opposing the closure for reasons involving both safety and the community identity of the rural area.
“Without its post office, Phippsburg would lose some of its own identity, opportunity to promote economic development and quality of life for its residents,” the letter stated.
Several business owners in South Routt also attended the meeting to reiterate the importance of convenient access to a post office for economic development.
The seniors in the crowd explained that they receive medication in the mail and don’t want their access to mail services to change. They also talked about the lack of Internet options and the fact that many seniors don’t use computers.
Rivera said the comments would be reviewed along with a cost savings analysis, and a proposal on the outcome will be sent out within about three weeks.
The proposal will be posted at the Phippsburg and Oak Creek post offices for 60 days, after which Postal Service headquarters in Washington will render a final decision. After that, residents can appeal the decision, a process that can take up to four months.
Louise Iacovetto, an 86-year Phippsburg resident and former postmaster, helped rally the local residents and county entities to preserve what many see as the center of the small, unincorporated town.
Iacovetto said after the meeting that she was satisfied with the turnout on Wednesday and is glad to have the support of the County Commission in fighting the possible closure.
“I’m thinking positively,” she said.
— To reach Nicole Inglis call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com