Mason County News
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Post Office Closing
Letter to the Editor
Wednesday, October 19, 2011 • Posted October 19, 2011

Dear Congressman Conaway,

As one of our districts Congressmen, we are asking that you use your power and influence in Congress to help bring the current dilemma within the United States Postal Service to a satisfactory conclusion not only for the Postal Service and employees, but for the postal patrons, especially the rural American residents of the United States who depend upon and need postal service the most.Castell, Texas postal patrons, residents, pioneer descendants, friends and neighbors gathered with Ernest Jones, the United States Postal Service Regional Manager at the Castell Community Club the morning of October 15, 2011 in support of keeping the Castell Post Office open and in opposition to the negative social and economic impact discontinuance of the Castell Post Office would have on the entire Community of Castell.The German Community of Castell, established in 1847, is rich in history and we are proud of our pioneer ancestry, the history of our churches, cemeteries, schools, our heroes and of course, our mainstay, the historic Castell Post Office that had it’s beginning in 1872. With the exception of a short period of time, the Castell Post Office has been sharing space with other businesses in the present historic building since the 1890’s and up until the 1980’s featured the only post office boxes remaining in Texas that were still located on the outside of the building.Over the years the Community of Castell has worked hard to preserve our 164 year old heritage, and there are ten historical markers located within a short distance of downtown Castell. I could go on and on about the preservation of our history but securing our future is what is most urgent. Just as in those first years of settlement, the Post Office is the heartbeat and mainstay of the Community of Castell. The Post Office serves as a gathering place, an information center, a weather warning system, a lost and found and much much more, and regardless of how large the service area or how many people it serves, closing the Castell Post Office would be a tragedy and have an irreversible social and economic impact on the entire Community of Castell.At present the Castell Post Office houses 64 mail boxes and all 64 are rented, but the postal service in Castell is far more outreaching than those 64 boxes. The Post Office area extending out for about a ten mile radius serves 2 churches, a Volunteer Fire Department, a Community Center, at least 30 businesses and events plus numerous farm and ranch business, many individuals, commuters, retirees and elderly residents of the Community. On an average week there are approximately 900 first class letters, 325 magazines and 20 packages that are handled through the Castell Post Office, which is approximately 5,000 transactions per month. That may not seem significant to someone who lives in a big city, but it is very significant to the rural residents in the Community of Castell.The Postal Service was reported to have said in the Post and Parcel News of July 14, 2011 that it “maintains its focus upon providing all customers the access they require, whether it be via Post Offices or the available alternatives”, and would not change regulations that prevent a post office from being closed solely because it is operating at a deficit, which is in accordance with the USPS Mission Statement. However, that seems to be contradictory as they were also reported to have stated that where retail traffic drops below minimal levels, it was likely that postal customers would be accessing postal services through alternative channels. The USPS stated in the U.S. Service Press Release of July 26, 2011, “as more customers choose to conduct their postal business online, on their smart phones and at their favorite shopping destinations, the need for the U.S. Postal Service to maintain its retail offices diminishes”. That statement may be true for the Post Offices in the larger towns and cities where they actually have “shopping destinations” and high speed internet, but it is just completely the opposite for Castell and other rural communities in the United States.Modern technology comes slow to Castell and most other rural communities and many of the postal patrons of Castell do not even own a computer or a smart phone or know how to use them. High speed internet service is simply not available in many rural areas and dial-up internet is not a satisfactory method of doing any business, personal or otherwise. The Community of Castell does not have “available alternatives” and the nearest larger Post Offices from the town of Castell are approximately 22 driving miles to Llano or 20 driving miles to Mason, and from Mason the mail first has to go to Abilene before it is ever routed out. Either way one is looking at an approximate 40 mile round trip, and that is just not an acceptable solution and as promised in the USPS Mission Statement does not “provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas” And what about our elderly who strive hard to maintain their independence in our rural communities? Driving that long distance would not only be a major hardship for them but a definite safety concern to say the least. In conclusion, the United States Postal Service was authorized and set up by the Constitution of the United States of America to be just that, a “service”, not a “business”, and provided for all citizens of the United States, and no where in the policy or mission statement does it say, “so long as the economy is good” or “so long as we make a profit”, and the USPS indicates their Mission Statement has not changed.What the mission statement found in Section 101(a) of Title 39 of the U.S. Code does say is: “The Postal Service shall have as its basic function the obligation to provide postal services to bind the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence of the people. It shall provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities”, and states, “the Postal Service shall provide a maximum degree of effective and regular postal services to rural areas, communities, and small towns where post offices are not self-sustaining. No small post office shall be closed solely for operating at a deficit, it being the specific intent of the Congress that effective postal services be insured to residents of both urban and rural communities”.It is imperative that each rural Post Office be studied and evaluated on an individual basis and the “need for service” in rural America should out weigh the count of “retail traffic”, and it seems someone has it backwards. If cuts have to be made within the Postal Service, do them in the larger towns and cities that do have alternatives such as high speed internet, big grocery stores, pharmacies and other retailers that are easy to get to, handicapped accessible and with numerous locations where postal business can be quickly and conveniently conducted. Those postal patrons would barely feel the prick of the pin unlike rural communities like Castell where the Post Office is vital to our existence and where the need is the greatest.In these hard times of wasteful and foolish government spending and bad economy when all of rural America is struggling more than anyone else to survive and stay alive, closing the Castell Post Office could be the sword that brings our Community down!The short version of what we learned in the meeting with Mr. Jones, USPS Regional Manager is that there is a debt within the USPS that has to be satisfied and there are several proposals pending to reduce that debt.Many of the proposals mentioned were just not feasible or acceptable for the Community of Castell and other rural communities nor would they really benefit the USPS and their employees.We understand that one of the proposals is to reduce the hours and/or days of operation of the Post Offices. If we, as citizens of the United States would be allowed to have a say in the matter, we would certainly choose less hours of operation any day over closure, especially in the rural communities were postal service is vital to our social and economic existence.As originally designed in the Constitution of the United States of America, and with the guidance and influence of our Congress, the residents and postal patrons of Castell expect the United States Postal Service to continue to honor the USPS policy and Mission Statement of providing “a maximum degree of effective and regular postal services to rural areas, communities, and small towns”, and keep the historic Castell Post Office and the Community of Castell, along with other rural communities, alive and intact!Honorable Congressman Conaway, the future of the United States Postal Service is now in the hands of you and your constituents in Congress which means our future and the future of our communities is also in your hands. Please help us!

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Patty Schneider Pfister

The Community of Castell, Texas

P.O. Box 106

Castell, Texas 76831


cc: Honorable U.S. Senator John CornynHonorable U.S. Senator Kay Bailey HutchinsonHonorable Senator Troy FraserHonorable Representative Harvey HilderbranErnest T. Jones, United States Postal Service Regional Manager Christeen Phipps, USPS District Discontinuance CoordinatorHonorable District Attorney Sam OatmanHonorable Llano County Judge BrascomHonorable Llano County Commissioner Jerry Don Moss, Precinct

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