Beallsville post office could close
Service may be suspended due to proposed rent increase
The Beallsville post office could suspend service this summer after nearly 200 years of serving the community.
Post office boxes and passport services will be transferred to the Poolesville post office and customers will continue to receive rural delivery service, according to a letter the U.S. Postal Service sent to residents. Beallsville will retain its community name and ZIP code.
Residents say suspending service would inconvenience users and deal a blow to the community's identity. They also say their appeals for more information have gone unanswered.
"It would be disastrous," said Eric Cronquist of Beallsville, a board member at the Sugarloaf Citizens Association, which has been asking for more information about the future of the rural post office since January.
The postal service is anticipating a $238 billion deficit during the next 10 years and in March proposed eliminating mail delivery on Saturdays for a projected savings of $3 billion per year, according to the Postal Service's Web site. It is studying whether to consolidate 413 retail stations and branches across the country, and it cut the equivalent of 57,000 positions this past year.
The postal service informed residents in a Feb. 24 letter that it "will suspend service" at the post office, located in the Staub building at the intersection of routes 109 and 28, when its lease runs out Aug. 1.
The letter also said "the recommended change will not lead to a formal proposal unless we conclude that it will provide a maximum degree of regular and effective service."
"Just because we have a game plan does not mean this is a guarantee," said Sharon Tennison, a Postal Service spokeswoman. She did not know when a final decision would be made but said service would be suspended unless another location in Beallsville is identified or the lease is renegotiated.
The post office's lone employee, Officer in Charge Tracy Wang, has worked in Beallsville since February. Wang said she did not know much about the proposed suspension of service except that "it's not a done deal and it's not certain." Employees will be placed in other facilities if needed, Tennison said.
The intersection is the heart of the 56-acre Beallsville Historic District. Beallsville, once a bustling crossroads community, has had a post office since the early 1800s, according to documents on the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties' Web site. The post office has been located at various buildings on all four corners of the intersection throughout the years and has been in the Staub building at 19800 Darnestown Road since the 1930s.
"This is the only heart and soul that's left in Beallsville" besides the historic Monocacy Confederate Chapel and Cemetery site just north of the intersection, said Jane Hunter of Dickerson, also an SCA board member.
Eusebio Maita, who has owned the building since 2004, said he told Postal Service officials he intended to increase the monthly rent of $1,100 by a couple hundred dollars about a year ago. He told the Postal Service that he would not raise the rent several months ago but was informed "it was already on schedule to close," he said.
"I'd like to keep the post office so I don't know what to do," said Maita of Dickerson. "...I would be happy to keep (the rent) the same."
Tennison initially said "the lessor decided he would not re-rent the building" but later clarified the building's owner had intended to increase the rent.
"It is a good business decision," Tennison said of closing the post office. Tennison said she did not know if the Beallsville office is profitable or what financial impact suspending service would have on the Poolesville post office or the Postal Service in general.
The U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission is investigating whether the Postal Service is closing small post offices without due process by suspending services for an extended period of time solely because of lease expirations without developing a plan to reopen or close the post office, according to the commission's Web site. Residents with concerns about a post office being closed without due process should contact the commission, said Norman Scherstrom, a commission spokesman.
The Postal Service may suspend a post office's operations if there is an emergency such as a natural disaster or when a lease is terminated and no other suitable facility is available, especially when the termination is sudden or unexpected, according to PRC documents dated March 2. Emergency suspensions are not governed by statute and cannot be appealed.
Tennison, who described the proposed action as a relocation, said it was a "regular suspension of service" but couldn't describe that process or how it differed from an emergency suspension of service.
An April 1 letter to the Postal Service from U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington requesting more opportunity for public comment describes it as an "emergency suspension of operations" and states that "I understand that the USPS has not made a decision as to whether this will be a relocation or a closure/consolidation."