Supervisors send request Sibley post office remain open

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, November 16, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Shirley McCallister, who has been a Sibley post office customer for over 30 years, checks her mail inside the office Tuesday afternoon.

NATCHEZ — Sibley residents will soon know if their local post office, which sits attached to the abandoned Sibley Store with its gas pumps buried in plastic grocery bags, will share the same fate as the old general store.

By late December or early in 2012, the U.S. Postal Service will decide if the Sibley office will close, said Mississippi spokesperson for U.S. Postal Service, Enola Rice.

Sibley was on a July list of 3,653 post office locations nationwide that were flagged for possible closure, with 60 of the offices located in Mississippi.

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — The Sibley Post office sits in the same building as the vacant Sibley Store on U.S. 61 South.

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Doris Richardson, who works as the office’s single employee under the title post master relief, said the Sibley residents would have to make a 28-mile round trip to get to the closest post office and back if the current location closes.

She said 125 residents rent post office boxes, and many of her customers are elderly.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors agreed last month to send a resolution to U.S. legislators Sen. Thad Cochran and Rep. Gregg Harper asking the government to keep the Sibley post office open.

“There are elderly residents in the (Sibley) area that depend on that post office,” Board President Darryl Grennell said.

District 5 Supervisor S.E. “Spanky” Felter made the motion to send the resolution and also to include in it all rural post offices in Adams County.

Rice said everything is taken into account, including comments from officials and otherwise, in decision regarding which of the post offices will close.

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Laura Foster, left, gives Doris Richardson a package Tuesday afternoon at Sibley’s post office.

“Each one (is decided) case by case,” Rice said.

Board Attorney Bobby Cox said the resolution has been drafted, but board secretary Angela Hutchins said it has not yet been executed and sent to Washington, D.C., to her knowledge.

In addition to the board’s efforts, a grassroots petition started by cousins Larry and Ralph Woods, who grew up in Sibley, should add to the efforts to save the post office.

Larry Woods said approximately 300 people had signed the petition, which has been circulated at area churches, and it is still in the process of making the rounds.

“I don’t want to see any of (the post offices) go away but if any of them got to go away don’t let it be Sibley,” Woods said.

Other nearby branches on the list for review include Crosby in Wilkinson County, Union Church in Jefferson County and Acme in Concordia Parish.

Currently the U.S. Postal Service operates 31,871 retail outlets across the country, down from 38,000 a decade ago, but in recent years business has declined sharply as first-class mail moved to the Internet. In addition, the recession resulted in a decline in advertising mail, and the service lost $8 billion last year.

Most of the offices that face review are in rural areas and have low volumes of business.

“(The U.S. Postal Service) can’t afford to build brick and mortar post offices,” Rice said.

Services such as money orders and stamp purchases in rural areas formerly offered at newly closed post offices will be offered by letter carriers, Rice said.

Richardson said losing the post office would mean losing the personal touch that means a lot, especially when serving such a select group of people.

Since she knows most of the customers in the small, rural community, she knows to help those that have trouble seeing, writing or reading.

“I always tell everybody I have the best customers in the whole world,” Richardson said.

Making the hike to Natchez would be difficult for some of the regulars, including one older woman who rides her scooter to the post office, she said.

Woods said the Sibley Store, formerly known as the Sibley Grocery that also used to house the post office, has always been a gathering place for Sibley residents.

Richardson agreed.

“It’s a rural family,” she said.