Post office in State Line may close

PAT FRIDGEN
Rueanna Perry serves customers at the State Line Post Office. The days of service may be numbered.

For over 50 years the State Line Post Office and Earl's Market have stood side-by-side, a strip mall of sorts in the village of State Line. That partnership may end Jan. 31, 2012, and the small community may be without a post office at all.

Postmaster Deb Nicarry learned months ago, and the residents just last week, that the United States Postal Service and its landlord had not come to terms on a rental agreement. Joe Lesko, owner of the grocery store, also owns the building housing the post office, which keeps boxes for 360 addresses.

Lesko confirmed the impasse. "It's unfortunate. I hate to lose the income, but we couldn't come to a reasonable conclusion to benefit both sides." He worked with a leasing agency acting on behalf of USPS.

Nicarry had been hoping for updates from her Harrisburg boss, but information was slow in coming. She finally was notified that if the post office did not find another building to rent within the boundaries of State Line, it would close permanently.

The USPS has been operating at a deficit, in the red $3.1 billion in the third quarter of 2011. Mail volume is down as people use the Internet to receive and pay bills. The price of a first class stamp will go up from 44 cents to 45 cents in January.  Some 3,000 post offices across the country may be closed.

State Line was not one of them.

"It wasn't necessary for all this to happen," said Nicarry. "We were not on the original list of closures. We weren't even considered because we're busy."

Lesko has had some feedback from customers. "They don't understand."

He realized if the post office goes, it could affect traffic into Earl's. "It's hard to say, hard to weigh that. Yes, it concerns me."

People react

Rueanna Perry, Postmaster Relief Person, heard the news from a customer on Friday. "I was so upset I couldn't sleep." She has been an employee for nine years, filling in when Nicarry is off. She will find another job if necessary.

Judy Gladhill, general manager of Gladhill Pest Control, wants the facility to remain where it is. Businesses didn't like rural mailboxes, the alternative if a new site is not found. "Post office boxes are safer. It's about security and convenience, with a store next door for quick trips. The post office is an institution in State Line."

It is unclear when the office opened. Lesko has a photograph dated 1947, in which the Earl's Market building was Binkley's GE Applicances, and the smaller building was Binkley's Self Service Store. Earl's opened in 1951.

Post office patron Joann Ott said the mail center was present when she moved to the area in 1954. She was not anxious to convert to street delivery. "It's a hassle to change addresses, plus it's not safe for receiving checks."

Though Mervin Harsh lives nearby and uses the State Line post office, he thought the closing would save USPS some money, and it should go a step farther and eliminate Saturday delivery.

"I like this little place," he said, "but why do you have to support all these small ones, including Shady Grove?"

Nicarry, with 38 years of service, and 21 as postmaster in State Line, will retire if her office can't relocate.

Small hope

Nicarry has been searching for another building and has one lead. However, the property owner must clear specifications with the USPS. It has strict standards on space, utility supply and parking. She would like more possible sites as backup, and time is running out.

"We only have two months for this. It's sad because there's been a post office in State Line since the late 1800s. It is such a part of the community. Without it, we won't have an identity."

She doesn't believe there is anything the public can do to turn the situation around, since decisions are made in the USPS hierarchy.

Earl’s Market and the United States Post Office zip code 17263 have been fixtures in State Line for at least half a century. The post office must move to another location or it will be closed on Jan. 31, 2012.