Post Office Closing: Village Post Office May Not Be The Answer

Ad Hoc Committee3

The Rev. DeForest “Buster” Soaries, left and Richard Barber, right, at the ad hoc committee meting at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens.

What is seen as a possible solution to anticipated problems caused by May’s planned closure of the Franklin Boulevard post office may not offer the hoped-for relief.

An ad hoc committee of community and religious leaders April 22 decided to apply to the U.S. Postal Service to open a “Village Post Office” in a vacant building next door to the current post office site. It was hoped that a Village Post Office would keep postal services in the Franklin Boulevard/Hamilton Street area.

But VPOs, as they are known, only offer a limited menu of retail services. According to the USPS Web site, VPOs only offer “Forever Stamp” sales, PO boxes, pre-paid Priority Mail flat rate envelopes and a mail collection box.

The post office at 601 Franklin Blvd., in operation since 1965, will close at 4:30 p.m. on May 15, according to a USPS spokesman. Customers will be directed to the DeMott Lane post office, the spokesman said. The USPS’s lease on the building expires on Aug. 31.

Ad hoc committee members have been arguing for four years that a post office is needed in the Franklin Boulevard/Hamilton Street area, not only for the many senior citizens who live there, but also for the businesses close to the facility.

Should post office services be taken from the area, the ad hoc committee members say, seniors will have a hard time getting to a post office because there is no public transportation to DeMott Lane. Also, those who drive may be have a hard time finding a parking spot in the DeMott Lane facility’s small parking lot, they say.

“The economic vitality of this neighborhood is directly linked to that post office,” the Rev. DeForest “Buster” Soaries, a member of the ad hoc committee, said at the meeting.

“Our neighborhood is fragile enough,” he said. “We don’t need anything to make it more fragile.”

The plan arrived at by the committee at the April 22 meeting also involved convincing the USPS to keep the Franklin Boulevard office open through August, when the lease expires, to provide time to get the Village Post Office started, an idea floated by Township Councilman Rajiv Prasad, (D-At Large).

Kari Osmond, district director for U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), said she would speak to her liaison at the USPS to see if the Franklin Boulevard site could be kept open until the lease expires.

Soaries told the committee that the building that could be used to house the Village Post Office – 610 Franklin Blvd. – is owned by the Central Jersey Community Development Corp., an affiliate of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens. Soaries is senior pastor of FBCLG.

That building will undergo a redevelopment, including housing, a financial literacy center and a health clinic, Soaries has said.

“We’ll make room for a new postal outlet,” he said.

Soaries said the CDC also owns a vacant lot one block away, one which could be placed a temporary USPS trailer to provide services while another office is being established.

In the meantime, Soaries said, an email expressing interest in the Village Post Office concept would be sent to the USPS on April 22.

Soaries noted that the USPS will have to first commit to a permanent site before it would commit to a temporary site.

Created in 2011, Village Post Offices are usually based in retail stores, according to the VPO Web site.

The VPOs are operated by the retail location’s management, according to the Web site.

“The Postal Service will consider establishing a Village Post Office in locations where there is no Post Office or that has one with reduced operating hours, and where an alternate access site will benefit the community and the Postal Service,” according to the Web site.

There are currently 856 VPOs in the United States, but just one in New Jersey, according to the Web site. The New Jersey location is in a hardware store in Sea Bright, Monmouth County.

Richard Barber, head of the ad hoc committee, said that several USPS officials had been invited to the April 22 meeting, but the USPS had not responded to the invitation.

The USPS not coming, Barber said, “is an insult to the community.”

“I think that when you are invited to a party, the least you should do is RSVP,” he said.

Barber said he would write a letter to the Postmaster General expressing his displeasure with the no-show.

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