By John Burton
Sea Bright’s post office branch expected to be closed permanently
SEA BRIGHT – Another borough victim of Super Storm Sandy appears to be the U.S. Postal Service branch.
The postal service will probably not be reopening its branch at 1028 Ocean Ave. The building was severely damaged during the late October storm and remains boarded up.
Representatives from the postal district, who have compiled data and drafted a report looking at whether the branch should be reopened, will be recommending to the vice president of Delivery and Post Office Operations that the office remain closed and Sea Bright postal patrons continue using the Rumson branch for service, said Raymond Daiutolo Sr., a postal service spokesman.
“It’s (the postal district representatives) belief that they can successfully continue to provide services to Rumson and Sea Bright customers and the Rumson office without pursuing a new location,” Daiutolo said.
The decision is not final at this point, Daiutolo said. When the report is finalized, it will be forwarded to postal service headquarters in Washington, D.C. for a final decision.
There is no firm time frame as to when the report will be completed or when officials might make the determination for the location, Daiutolo said.
A public comment session was held by the postal service on Thursday, Aug. 22. Their input is expected to be incorporated into the report and factor into the final decision, Daiutolo said.
But for Mayor Dina Long, the decision “seems like a formality.” She and others in the borough suspect the die is cast for the location and it will be permanently shuttered.
Since Sandy, mail for the borough and for its 75 post office box holders has been sorted and delivered by the Rumson office’s personnel.
The Rumson office also had been delivering mail to Highlands’ customers but the Highlands branch has since been repaired and reopened.
In actuality, Sea Bright’s post office was never a stand-alone branch. It was a satellite office of the Rumson branch – located roughly 2.3 miles from the Sea Bright outpost – and was operated only three hours a day, Daiutolo said.
A major factor in favor of closing the site permanently, Daiutolo noted, is that “the post office is in a very difficult financial situation.” Officials have been looking at all options to contain costs.
The postal service has had a decrease of about 30 percent in its business since 2006, Daiutolo said.
“So, it has to make some very prudent fiscal decisions,” he said.
The Ocean Avenue site, which the postal service has been using since August 1960, was costing $41,000 a year to lease with another $3,500 being spent on the building’s utility costs.
“It is this district’s contention that it is a cost we don’t need to be expending if we are successful in providing service to our Sea Bright customers,” he said.
District representatives have information to show that Sea Bright customers are being taken care of and that the new, since-Sandy system has been functioning effectively, he said.
That’s not the way borough officials see it.
“It’s definitely a blow to our community,” Long said of the borough that has been slogging forward for 10 months, working to return to some sense of normal since the storm’s devastation.
Some residents said they understand the postal service’s thinking for not reopening but were not happy about it.
“A small town, you need a post office,” Clariza Muratore said. “There are some people around here who don’t have a car,” making it difficult to get to the Rumson post office.
“We’re a barrier island, for crying out loud,” Joe Eskridge said. “It is really an inconvenience.”
Echoing the mayor’s sentiments, “We don’t even have a bank here,” Eskridge said. “Now no post office?”
One possible option could be for the postal service to establish what it calls a village post office, which would operate out of a small space in a local business. The U.S. Postal Service has opened about 300 of these around the country recently, Daiutolo said.
A village post office would provide very limited services, usually just selling stamps and handling fixed-rate priority mail packages. It would mean finding a business willing to provide space and personnel to run it and for the postal service to reach a leasing agreement with the business, the postal spokesman said.
“It is an expense but it would be less,” than operating a full service branch, Daiutolo said.