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Port Tampa

Patrons fret post office's fate

A Port Tampa petition hopes to preserve its post office, which has seen cutbacks. Postal officials say the location is safe.

By RON MATUS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 7, 2003

It's running wild again.

That Port Tampa post office rumor.

First, they transferred the mail carriers. Then they cut the hours. Can there be any doubt what's next? Could the post office at 6801 S Westshore Blvd. be closing?

"It's progressing in that direction," observed patron Carol Curtiss, a regular since the 1960s.

Not so, said Gary Sawtelle, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service's Suncoast district.

"We have absolutely no plans to close that facility," he said.

Port Tampa has had a post office for more than a century. And the current facility is the only one south of Gandy Boulevard.

The post office is a source of pride -- and convenience.

If they closed it, "you'd find a lot of very, very unhappy people," Curtiss said.

She was concerned enough to help start a petition two weeks ago to get the hours extended.

Until last fall, clerks staffed the office from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Now they work from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

"We need to have it open more hours, not less hours," she told about 50 people at a Port Tampa Civic Association meeting last week. "This community is thriving, not dying."

The civic association agreed to send a letter to the postal service outlining its concerns. City officials and business leaders in attendance said they would write letters, too.

But reinstated hours aren't likely, Sawtelle said.

In the wake of federal budget cuts, the district began reviewing the financial health of its facilities two years ago, he said.

It hasn't closed any post offices, but dozens have had their hours scaled back.

Sawtelle said he could not disclose the number of customers who use the Port Tampa facility but it "is not a moneymaking proposition for us."

The agency's analysis showed the new hours "will take care of most of the needs," he said.

But if not's making money, why not close it?

"It's important for the community," he said.

The new schedule was posted inside the Westshore office before it went into effect, Sawtelle said. No one complained.

Residents aren't giving up.

They collected 50 signatures last week and expect to include at least 200 when the civic association mails its protest letter.

With a Port Tampa postmark, of course.

-- Staff Writer Ron Matus can be reached at 226-3405 or .

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