Battlement Mesa residents decry planned postal facility closure
Special to the Post Independent
Battlement Mesa residents are trying to forestall the closure of the postal facility in their community, but it appears they’re fighting an uphill battle.
Battlement Mesa Co., which owns the building and operates the facility under contract with the U.S. Postal Service, has announced it will close the office on April 15. The company consistently loses money on the operation, company president Tom Beard said.
Battlement Mesa residents object to the closure of the facility, which is known as a postal contract station. Many residents are elderly, and would be seriously inconvenienced if forced to travel to the Parachute Post Office on the other side of Interstate 70, said Peggy Rawlins of Battlement Mesa.
The contract station is next to the town’s supermarket, and a short distance from the Mesa Vista Assisted Living Residence.
Residents will miss the services
Currently, 190 of the station’s post office boxes are rented. Postmaster Pam Douglas and her two part-time assistants deliver mail to those boxes and provide counter service 28 hours a week, selling stamps, providing supplies such as Express Mail envelopes, and taking in Parcel Post packages. Residents of the community of more than 3,000 say they’ll miss these services.
“I don’t understand the priorities around here,” said Peggy Rawlins, a Battlement Mesa resident for eight years. The company can’t afford to keep the postal facility open, she said, but it spends large amounts on landscaping and decorative items such as flags.
Some of those opposed to the closure have begun circulating a petition, asking that the contract station be left open. Battlement Mesa resident Jan Bedell, in an e-mail to the Post Independent, wrote that more than 400 residents had signed.
Bedell also wrote that the Battlement Mesa station has adequate parking and easy access, while the Parachute Post Office does not. And, she said, the postal station is the “bulletin board of the community,” a benefit for a town that only has a monthly newspaper.
As profitable as Battlement Mesa must be, Rawlins said, the company should be able to keep the station open as a service to the residents.
“I know this place is profitable,” she said. “It’s continually expanding. Why can’t they consider things for the good of the people? That’s what bothers me.”
A drain on the company’s profits
However, Beard said it’s not possible to keep the contract station open at a loss any longer. He said he disagrees with those who say the company can afford it.
“I don’t believe that’s a fair assumption,” he said.
“It’s just an economic reality,” Beard said. “It’s just too much to subsidize, with no end in sight.”
Beard said the cost to the company is $50,000 per year, and Battlement Mesa receives little revenue. The company, he said, had to pay to have the post office boxes installed, but the U.S. Postal Service gets all the income from those boxes, as well as all the revenue from the sale of stamps and other postage.
“The amount of reimbursement we get from the Postal Service is very small,” he said. “It’s barely 10 percent of the cost of operating the station.”
Beard said the company has the right to cancel its contract with the U.S. Postal Service with 60 days’ notice. He said renegotiating a more favorable contract was not really a possibility. The company has tried to find a contractor such as Mail Boxes Etc. that might take over the operation, but with no success.
Parachute can absorb the extra customers
Parachute Postmaster Koch said the Parachute post office has nine employees in all, five full time and four part time. His staff delivers mail to all the homes and businesses in Parachute and Battlement Mesa and to about 400 post office boxes that are currently rented in Parachute.
The Parachute post office was overbuilt during the oil shale boom, Koch said, and now has 1,266 post office boxes, most of which are empty. He expects another 100 of those to fill up due to the natural gas boom. So renting another 200 or so as a result of the Battlement Mesa closing won’t be a problem.
“I’ve tried to do everything possible to make it easy for those people to come down here,” he said. The Battlement Mesa box customers will be able to keep their box numbers and their ZIP code, he said.
What will the three people now employed at the contract station do?
“We’re going to walk the streets with a tin cup,” joked Postmaster Pam Douglas.
Contact Jeremy Heiman: 945-8515, ext. 534
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