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Francitas' sole post office may close

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
March 13, 2011 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated March 12, 2011 at 9:13 p.m.

Cecilia Jalufka, 3, looks inside a PO box at the Francitas post office Sunday afternoon.  The office, where residents of the small town come to collect their mail, is scheduled to be closed down.  An $8.5 billion  budget deficit in 2010 is forcing the US Postal Service to begin shutting down small-town offices in the area.  Francitas residents are petitioning to keep the office open.

For the town of Francitas, the post office is information central.

"This is where we get our mail and anything else we need," said 77-year-old resident Hazel Deen, who has retrieved her mail from the Francitas Post Office for nearly 50 years. "We don't have mailboxes at home, so we have to come here. We drop off mail and pick it up, and if there's information we need about meetings or anything, this is where we get it."

More than an office to send and receive mail, the Francitas population of more than 120 people use the post office on Avenue I and Bryan Avenue for posting memos about political races and town meetings, and using the building as a central meeting point.

"It's really the heart of the town," Francitas resident Carolina Jalufka said.

So, when Deen, Jalufka and the rest of the community learned the post office might close because of a U.S. Postal Service revenue shortfall, they decided to organize a protest.

Since February 25, Jalufka has walked door-to-door collecting signatures of those opposing the post office closing. Her husband Ashley and father-in-law Fred Jalufka have also assisted with propelling the protest forward. As of Sunday, Jalufka had 77 signatures on the petition.

"They say closing the post office will help with declining revenues of the post office, but this (location) will not even put a dent in their budget," Jalufka said, explaining the town's small size. "Having the post office gives our town a name."

Jalufka cited a letter sent out in early March by the United States Postal Service, notifying the community of a public meeting on March 15 to discuss the post office's possible closure.

"The U.S. Postal Service will hold a public meeting to discuss its proposal to make possible changes in the way postal services are provided in Francitas," the letter states. "A review of business activities of the Francitas Post Office revealed that the office workload has declined ... (suggesting) the maintenance of an independent Post Office for Francitas may no longer be warranted."

A statement from U.S. Postal Service spokesperson Sam Bolen, states the Francitas Post Office is one of many stores nationwide -- and one of 13 post offices in the Rio Grand District of Texas -- contributing to an $8.5 billion deficit in the fiscal 2010 year. Rio Grand District post offices in Armstrong, Belmont, Campbellton, Chapman Ranch, Lopeno, Muldoon, Oakland, Pottsville, Prairie Hill, Purmela, Sublime and Wrightsboro are also under review for possible closure.

"Mail volume has declined by 43.1 billion pieces in the past five years -- from an all-time high of 213 billion in 2006 to 170 billion in 2010. The Postal Service, including the Rio Grand District, is doing everything possible to reduce costs and save money -- this will involve consolidating operations wherever possible," Bolen's statement said.

If closed, the 128 Francitas residents with P.O. boxes at the post office will likely be transferred to one of the nearest mail centers in Blessing, La Ward, Midfield and Lolita.

"We're not going down without a fight, that's all I have to say," Jalufka said.



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