Calpine PO Meeting

Are They Going to Close Calpine Post Office 0500811

News, Analysis and Opinion from the Fringe area of Calpine


The United States Postal Service held a meeting in Calpine at the CIA building on May 5th.  Ms. Renee Brown, who oversees this area from Reno, was present to discuss the PO in Calpine.


The USPS is a not for profit public agency.  It functions as a business, but is technically part of the U.S. Government.  This morphed hybrid of private enterprise and government agency has the benefits of neither and the disadvantages of both.  It is not really a private business, since it isn’t allowed to stop delivering to people it doesn’t like or can’t afford to serve, and it can’t use scantily clad adolescent girls to push its wares as electronics, clothing and cosmetic companies do.  On the other hand, it has to compete with other package delivery services for package revenue, it has to compete with the internet for bill paying and advertising, and with Costco for stamp sales.  When fuel goes up, it costs them more; they don’t get to raise the price of postage.  Regardless the fact that it’s a business designed to fail, the United States Post Office has provided us with a standard of letter and parcel delivery that most other nations envy.  Our postal employees are, generally speaking, friendly, efficient, and concerned with getting us the mail. 

That is certainly the case in Calpine, where acting Postmaster Ginny Butler provides sterling service, with a smile.  She is certainly one of the reasons so many people came to the meeting; the loss of her job will impact not only her family, but the entire community.  Finally, she’s given such great service she deserves to have people speak on her behalf.


About 75 people came, pretty much filling the hall, most of them murmuring and mildly sullen at the prospect of losing their post office, but still friendly enough for these parts.


Ms. Renee “Brown like my shoes” Brown (her shoes were indeed, dark brown) took her place at the table in front of the potentially unruly crowd.  “If you came loaded for bear, I’m not bear,” she said, clarifying the point that she has a clearly defined role in the process.


The Post Office is suffering; letter mail is down 50%.  That’s good news in many ways, since that means there is less pulp waste, and less fuel is used to drive a 5000 lb. vehicle five miles to deliver three ounces of junk mail.  On the other hand, we’re all poorer now, and we aren’t willing to pay 60 cents to mail a letter.  If postage goes up, we’ll send an email instead.  As it is, many potential employers don’t want paper job applications any more, most utilities prefer you pay on line, and most relatives that don’t use Facebook or email are dead or soon will be.  Increasing the cost of stamps too much might put the PO out of business altogether.  The Post Office gets no tax dollars, those dollars being hard at work in a “war” in Afghanistan, keeping the Afghans safe from, perhaps, bad mail service.  Perhaps if we provided tax dollars to serve our residents and caused the military to pay for the war by selling stamps Ms. Brown could have stayed home and worn pink slippers instead.

Strong local support: Ginny 

Ms. Brown carried on a back and forth with the mob of postal patrons, admitting when someone had a point, and encouraging everyone to accept the reality.  She described the situation clearly: there is a process, her part is small, she does have the ability to decide if this post office study continues; if it doesn’t continue the PO is safe for now.  There is a list of POs being considered for closure, she didn’t make the list, she doesn’t get to choose which POs close.


The crowd began a long, soon repetitive, discussion.  Here it is in a nutshell: We need the PO, it helps keep the CIA building alive, it’s the heart of the community socially, it allows us to get mail for the six months there is snow here, some of us are old and can’t struggle through the snow to cluster boxes, cluster boxes are going to be first buried and then uprooted by snow plows, just like the few mailboxes on the road are, there are many small businesses here and the Post Office is an integral part of their businesses, and we already suffered the loss of a PO in Sattley, leaving some of us with the impossible address of “highway 49, Calpine”, and generally, we need the damn PO.  They couldn’t say it often enough.


The points are described in a letter to McClintock which was read aloud, and especially well in a letter from the Board of Supervisors, HERE, which was read by Mr. Beals on behalf of the Board. 


They are, indeed, very good points.  It is possible the addresses now served by Calpine would be splintered into Clio or Graeagle, and Sierraville.  It is possible there would be cluster boxes, where small packages could be delivered, and where, if you were lucky, you might meet your letter carrier to exchange money to mail a package.  Driving to a PO when gas is five bucks a gallon to find you have no mail is nuts. The “cluster boxes” would save many of us gas, but they are not ADA compliant, and frankly, they won’t last to spring.  Finally, neighbors in our widely scattered community really do stay in touch at the PO.  When the Fringe Editor goes to the Calpine PO to pick up our many, many checks, we invariably run into someone we’re glad to see, someone who is glad to see us to complain about a story we did or didn’t do on their favorite subjects.  The PO also supports the CIA, and the beautiful county park.  It is the heart of 96124.


But Ms. Brown was clear: they receive no tax funds, they have to reduce services to reduce the red ink.   


This editor will note that the crowd at the meeting acted as such groups often do in the face of trouble, they pulled together and tried to throw someone else under the bus.  Why not close Clio, they don’t really need a Post Office.  Clio isn’t on the list.


Why not close a PO in an urban area where it isn’t so far to the next one, and where the PO isn’t the heart of the community?  They are.

Reading a letter from the SC Board of Supervisors
outlining the benefits of the Calpine PO: Director of Public Works Tim Beals


It didn’t take long to realize that Ms. Brown had seen this all before.  She was patient, honest, and direct.  In discussion, it emerged that she has attended several such meetings, including one in Herlong, where people really, really don’t want their PO cut.  Indeed, from her discussion it became clear that she never attended a meeting where a crowd gathered to angrily insist that their post office, and not someone else’s, be closed.


The real news is that our economy is not only in the dumper, when it comes out it will be something very different.  In this area, many people still pay bills through the mail, and actually send paper letters to people they know.  In most of the rest of the nation, though, we’re finally going digital.  The Post Office is going to be about parcel delivery, and Fed Ex already has our business in this part of the world. 


Ms. Brown said that an economic report will be made, but it won’t be available to anyone.  It is possible it would be available under the Freedom of Information Act, but even if it is, so what?   Other communities have their needs which are as important to the PO as ours.  We can’t change the future of communications much, and the digital age isn’t as likely to disappear as it is likely to merge from getting mail on our cell phone to getting mail straight into our heads.  The PO is going to morph, or the voters are going to instruct Washington to spend less killing people in faraway places and more on making life in this country better. 


Renee Brown has not much more to say in most of this than we do.  It’s pretty clear we won’t bribe, bullshit or browbeat Ms. Brown in to saving our PO, since she’s bound by the facts, not what we wish in our hearts.


The loss of the PO is more of a blow to rural people than it would be to urban people, because of the distances we have to travel.  But, this only adds another nail in the coffin of rural living.  We’re being told it cost too much in money and carbon to have people live in scattered homesteads; this is another example of how that works.


Here’s advice the Prospect has always given.  If you like the services in your rural community, use them.  Buy some gas at the local station, buy some food at the local grocery and by all means, buy your stamps, envelopes and other postal needs from your neighborhood post office. 


Even so, it pays to be ready for a like-it-or-not future, one that’s almost certainly going to eventually feature a bent and frozen cluster box.



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