By Shawn Regan
HAVERHILL — City leaders fear a plan to close the Bradford Post Office would inconvenience people in that part of the city and create traffic problems downtown, where the main post office is located.
Mayor James Fiorentini said he opposes closing the post office in Bradford's Central Square and that he has written to Haverhill's congressional representatives and top postal officials in Washington, D.C., and Boston to ask for their help keeping it open.
Shuttering the Bradford post office would send most people who use it to Haverhill's busy main post office downtown in Washington Square, Fiorentini said.
"Although the (downtown) post office is not too far away, it is across the Merrimack River and parking is difficult there," reads the letter Fiorentini sent to Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, U.S. Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown, and U.S. Postmaster General Jack Potter.
"The (Haverhill) postmaster herself has complained there is not enough parking for their customers, employees and official vehicles (at the downtown post office)," the mayor said. "Closing (Bradford) will exacerbate an already difficult situation. The (downtown) post office simply cannot take on this added business and traffic."
City Councilor David Hall has also said he is concerned about the effect of closing the Bradford Post Office.
The Postal Service will spend the next six months considering whether to close the Bradford Post Office and make a decision in December or January, Fiorentini said.
John Noble, spokesman for Tsongas, said her office was informed by postal officials last week that due to "tremendous financial challenges," the Postal Service will undertake an extensive study of 3,700 post offices nationwide, including Bradford, to determine whether closure or alternative forms of access to postal services will be appropriate. He said Tsongas will contact the postmaster general to emphasize the importance of the Bradford Post Office and the fact that hundreds of residents rely on this location for their postal services.
Fiorentini said postal officials told him they will soon send questionnaires about the South Main Street post office's future to customers who use it. The Postal Service will host a community meeting in October or November, he said.
"I have been told they will take six months to consider closing stations on the list and that there will be opportunities for public input," Fiorentini said, referring to a list of 43 Massachusetts post offices the Postal Service is considering shuttering.
The process of considering which post offices to close began about two years ago, the mayor said.
There is also another small post office on Route 125 in Ward Hill. That post office, along with the ones in Bradford, Georgetown and Groveland are affiliated with the main post office downtown. There are no plans to close any of the other postal stations, Fiorentini said.
Dennis Tarmey, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in New England and New York, said the service is closing post offices because business has "dropped off dramatically" during the last few years. More people are using email and the Internet rather than mailing items, he said.
The Postal Service handled its highest volume of mail in 2006, at 213 billion pieces, Tarmey said. The following year it dropped slightly, to 212 billion, then in 2008, the volume slid decreased to 202 billion pieces of mail, he said.
The following year, 2009, the drop was substantial, to 177 billion, Tarmey said. In 2010, the volume of mail fell further, to 170 billion pieces, he said.
Tarmey said that during the last few years the average mail delivery has dropped from five to four to three pieces, he said.
The number of postal workers has also shrunk. The Postal Service had 792,000 employees in 1998, Tarmey said. Today, the postal work force stands at 583,000, he said.
Retirements and attrition have accounted for the decline in the number of Postal Service employees, he said.
The United States had 71,000 post offices in 1900, when the population was less than 100 million, according to Tarmey. Today, with a population that exceeds 300 million, the number of post offices is 32,000, Tarmey said.
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