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Post office closes; town vows to fight on

Last modified: 1/7/2012 12:00:00 AM
Despite a petition with more than 700 local signatures, the post office in Boscawen closed yesterday, as scheduled.

The closing followed a new contract, ratified last spring, between the American Postal Workers Union and the U.S. Postal Service, calling for the shutdown of 20 contract postal stations nationwide.

Two full-time branches in Penacook and Salisbury, funded by the Postal Service, will remain open and are the closest mailing outlets to Boscawen.

Unlike those two offices, the Boscawen post office was

a contract station, meaning it was open just 18 hours a week and had to fund itself, except for a salary of $8,300 for the postmistress, Laura Lane, and $200 for a phone line.

Lane, named Hometown Hero last summer during Old Home Day, has been postmistress for 23 years.

The Boscawen Historical Society owns the building and paid all utilities, while the town plowed the parking lot and took care of outside maintenance.

And since Lane was notified about the closing in October, an anonymous donor has offered to pay her salary in an attempt to keep the doors open.

'The people have spoken,' said Michele Tremblay, a lifelong member of the Historical Society and the backbone of the local movement to keep the office running. 'They want their post office, and we're going to give it to them.'

While that's not official, Tremblay says she'll continue the fight on Monday, when she'll plead her case to the Postal Service's retail division in Portland, Maine. She's also sent the Portland office a thick packet that includes the 44-page petition, newspaper accounts of the town's disappointment over the closing and a history of the Boscawen post office.

'The people in Portland say they need to determine the demand, but the demand is already determined,' said Tremblay, who owns an environmental consulting business. 'It's been determined not only by the current use, but by the petitions and the needs assessment that we're conducting right now.'

Tremblay, Lane and Historical Society librarian Elaine Clow, along with town officials, form the core of the resistance movement. The three women tied up loose ends yesterday, tending to customers, packing and building momentum for the fight ahead.

'We're just very concerned that we're losing it,' Clow said. 'It's such an essential service to the people in our community.'

Service in Boscawen dates back to 1805. The current office, which stands next door to the Historical Society, opened in 1976.

While the group admits maintaining the post office is unrealistic, the goal now is to transform it into a Village Post Office, a nostalgic institution born in the early days of mail service that combines retail business with postal products and services.

Tremblay said the outlet could sell Historical Society items and greeting cards, and provide shipping and packing services, especially for the town's increasing senior population.

'According to everything on their website, the way the postal service defines it, this is the ideal candidate for a Village Post Office,' Tremblay said. 'We already have the infrastructure in place. We've met the criteria, we have the best possible qualifications, we have the best possible location, we have a long history, we have a person ready to go. It's going to expand community services that this building has been providing as a contract station. I have every confidence that it will reopen.'

When asked why the U.S. Postal Service might change its mind about a decision made months ago, Tremblay put her hands on her hips and said, 'Because they didn't know we'd put up such a fight. This is a rural area, it has a proven need, and they can't ignore that.'

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or rduckler@cmonitor.com.)


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