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Douglas rallies for its post office

Posted: March 29, 2012 - 12:10am
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Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho hands out certificates of appreciation to Douglas Post Office employees Dean Ruby, right, and Levi Kearney during a rally in support of the post office on Wednesday.  Michael Penn/Juneau Empire
Michael Penn/Juneau Empire
Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho hands out certificates of appreciation to Douglas Post Office employees Dean Ruby, right, and Levi Kearney during a rally in support of the post office on Wednesday.

Dignitaries who spoke at the rally to save the Douglas Post Office said they could not make guarantees about the facility’s future.

“We don’t have promises,” Sally Smith, field representative for Sen. Mark Begich, said to the 100-plus in attendance, “but we have hope.”

The U.S. Postmaster General has slated the Douglas Post Office for closure due to financial hard times at the postal service. Congress has until May 15 to adjust the U.S. Post Office’s budget before the mail carrier makes a final decision on the closures.

The U.S. Senate was unable to reach cloture on Begich’s post office reform bill recently, “so the vote is held off until after the Easter break,” Smith said. “As far as I’m concerned, that allows us more time.” However, this pushes the vote closer to the postmaster’s date of decision, she said.

Smith recognized Douglas Post Office staff Dean Ruby and Lee Kearney on behalf of Begich. Ruby and Kearney represent more than federal employees, Smith said.

“They represent the best of what is good about government service, the best of what’s good about being part of a community,” Smith said.

Mayor Bruce Botelho said this isn’t the first time the postal service has tried to save money by closing offices.

“I do not dispute that the Post Office is facing a financial crisis,” Botelho said. “I do not dispute the thought that closing post offices may result in savings for the postal service, though I doubt that it is anywhere near where they think it will be.”

Botelho said the post office failed in its attempt to save large sums of money with 10,000 office closures in 1975.

“This isn’t the first time the post office has faced this kind of crisis,” Botelho said.

“For us the Douglas Post Office … is part of our island community, our culture,” Botelho said. “Activities are generated right here in downtown Douglas in no small part because the post office is here. It’s the destination for many Douglasites … a place to meet their neighbors.”

Botelho said the closure shifts costs from the postal service to those who are inconvenienced by the location’s absence.

“It isn’t worth the price,” Botelho said. He then started a chant of “99824,” a reference to Douglas’ ZIP code

Douglas Advisory Board member Mary Kay Pusich said those looking to protect the Douglas Post Office should contact Begich and Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe.

Paula Rohrbacher and her daughter, Phoebe Rohrbacher, attended the rally. Their family has lived in Juneau since the 1970s. They moved to Douglas in 1997 for the community of people and its small town feel, Paula said.

“We appreciate having the post office,” said Paula, who lives within sight of the office. “The small town community is important to us.”

After the speeches the rally-goers walked from the parking lot of the Douglas Depot gas station to the Douglas Post Office to present certificates of appreciation to Douglas Post Office employees Dean Ruby and Lee Kearney.

“The fight to save the post office is more than just a fight to save a building,” Botelho said. “It’s partly the building, but more important it’s about the people who serve us,” Botelho said.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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