Officials assured residents of the Southport section of town Monday there are no plans at this time to close the U.S. Post Office on Pequot Avenue in Southport Village, a rumor sparked by the relocation of local mail carriers and sorters to the Postal Service's Commerce Drive facility.
However, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes told a community gathering that officials and residents alike must remain vigilant, since the lease on the building, owned by a company based in Maine, expires in 2016.
But Murphy acknowledged that moving the Southport carriers and sorters to Commerce Drive could affect timely delivery of mail and packages when that change happens in August. He asked constituents to keep track of mail and package deliveries to measure the impact.
"Southport really is a unique community," Himes said. "This is not a city, where you can just go five blocks to find another post office ... And getting from one place to another in Fairfield County is not easy. We have been very aggressive with the post office on this issue."
Neighborhood residents complained that it will take longer for mail to be delivered, with one woman estimating that mail will likely be delivered two hours later than usual.
"It has much more than post office value and economic value," Ellen Jacobs said of the Southport office. "It's got historic value to our town." She said when the main Westport Post Office downtown was closed and the facilities relocated to Playhouse Square, it revitalized the shopping center. "It was a failed mall," she said. "It's now buzzing with activity."
The Rev. Laura Whitman, from Southport Congregational Church, said every month her church sends out 485 newsletters. "We used to send them through Southport, but they don't do bulk mailing anymore." The nearest facility that does, she said, is in Westchester, N.Y.
Another resident said the Southport Post Office should be the poster child for what a post office should be, citing the helpful employees, while still another suggested that the community look into possibly purchasing the building, in an effort to eliminate concerns about rent increases when the current lease expires.
Jacobs asked Murphy if there are figures on the volume of mail handled by the Southport Post Office and "why that post office was put in possible running for closure."
Murphy repeated that there is no current plan to close retail postal operations in Southport. "The processing consolidation is systemwide and is happening irrespective of volume," he said. "The retail operations are not on a closure list."
Himes also said if there is a decision regarding the future of the Southport Post Office, "it is a lengthy process," and one that requires public hearings if plans call for it to be closed. "They can't ambush us," he said.