SPANISH FORT – City officials are asking federal authorities to not close the community post office in January.
The Spanish Fort City Council voted unanimously Friday to pass a resolution opposing the closing and to appeal the decision. Mayor Mike McMillan said the closing would leave the city’s population of almost 10,000 and as many residents living outside the corporate limits with no post office north of Interstate 10.
“We passed a resolution basically opposing the closing of the Spanish Fort Post Office,” McMillan said. “We are appealing to them to follow their procedures of having predetermined hearings, mailouts, notifications of that. We also have noted that our Congressional delegation has been misled in this process, therefore we need to move forward.”
U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, who represents southwest Alabama in the House of Representatives, said the plan to close the Spanish Fort Post Office is a breach of trust. Byrne said that he and Spanish Fort officials were told that a new post office was planned that would allow residents to continue using their post office boxes. He said he later learned that the Postal Service did not plan any new facility with boxes in Spanish Fort.
“For over a year, my office has attempted to work with USPS officials to ensure Spanish Fort – one of the fastest growing communities in Alabama – has access to PO Boxes and a contract postal unit in their community. We worked closely with Mayor McMillan and the city to convey the importance of this issue to USPS and forge a solution to meet the community’s needs,” Byrne said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, we were misled on multiple occasions by USPS officials who assured us every effort would be made to keep the PO Boxes located in Spanish Fort. We have now found out that USPS planned to move the boxes out of Spanish Fort all along. They have repeatedly breached the public trust and misled us. “While we are disappointed, we remain committed to working to get a full-service post office for the people of Spanish Fort and will continue to press USPS on this important matter,” he said.
David Conner, city attorney, said Spanish Fort will ask that the closing be delayed until the appeal is decided.
“One of the things that you can ask for when you file is for them to intervene and delay the closing, so that’s one thing that we will be asking for,” Conner said.
Councilwoman Mary Brabner said many businesses and other organizations, including the city, will have to get new box numbers in Daphne.
“I’m concerned about the timing of all this because you’ve got residents, you’ve got businesses, that have got to change an address and that could negatively impact them so we need to push as hard as we can before they start putting in change of address notices to Daphne,” Brabner said. “The city of Spanish Fort will have to change its address. We’ve got a PO box. People are going to have to be changing their address and then changing it back if it doesn’t get moved.”
Pastor Richard Ullo of the Bible Baptist Church said the change will mean his church will have to order new stationery and make other adjustments.
“We believe that a regular post office, not a contract post office, is a vital part of our community,” Ullo said. “We’re going to have to change our letterheads. We’re going to have to change our envelopes. We’re going to have to change documents. We’re going to have to change things at the bank, change things online, all sorts of things that we’re going to have to do because of the loss of our PO box as well as several of our members who have expressed to me that they have personal PO boxes for security reasons and different things like that. This is a very important issue.”
The Spanish Fort Post Office is a contract post office, which is a partnership with a private vendor to provide services to a community, Debra Fetterly, USPS spokeswoman, said.
The current Spanish Fort contract expires Jan. 15. Bids on a new contract closed on Dec. 7, but no new contract has been approved, Fetterly said Friday.
She said that if a new contactor is selected, current plans do not call for the new facility to have post office boxes. Spanish Fort post office box holders have been notified that they can have their mail delivered to their street address or to a new post office box in Daphne.