Camp Meeker's post office is a critical meeting point for the tiny West County community and closing it would put residents and business owners at a distinct disadvantage, local residents told a U.S. Postal Service manager at a meeting Thursday to discuss the operation's potential closure.
The Camp Meeker and Villa Grande post offices are on a list of 104 California postal sites under study for closure. The debate is part of a call for radical changes to the national postal service — an operation that is heading toward a $10 billion net loss this fiscal year.
But Camp Meeker residents said their tiny office is not a drain on the larger operation and should remain in service.
"There is a trend in this country right now of saving money at the expense of people who have no financial power and aren't the problem," said Camp Meeker resident Layna Berman. "They are just disenfranchising people who are already disenfranchised."
Camp Meeker, with its homes tucked into steep hillsides and along windy, narrow roads above Bohemian Highway, has never had home mail delivery. So the post office became a hub for residents who pick up their mail there each day.
"I walk or ride my bike every day — zoom, down the hill in a minute, two minutes," said Pete Stuart.
Stuart, like a number of others who attended Thursday night's federally mandated public meeting on the potential closure, said his home-operated business will be severely disrupted if he is forced to change over his credit cards, business cards and stationary and delivery information to a new site.
"I live here. This is my address. I want my mail here," he said.
Residents suggested a private business or public entity like the Recreation and Parks District take over running a post office. It would be a "Village Post Office," a program that allows a third party to contract with the U.S. Postal Service to provide mail services.
That is possible and would keep Camp Meeker residents with a Camp Meeker mailing address, rather than Occidental or another community, said Tony Carvelli, manager of post office operations.
Thursday's meeting is part of a public input process during which residents can appeal any upcoming decision over the fate of the operation.
"I'm not here to make any commitments, just to get your feedback so we can brainstorm together," Carvelli told the approximately 35 people who gathered in the parking lot in front of Camp Meeker's post office on Bohemian Highway; the post office itself is too small for a meeting so residents simply stood around Carvelli and offered their opinions during the 90 minute meeting.
Pearl Anderson has lived all but four of her 84 years in Camp Meeker. For her, the fight is over more than traveling a mile down the highway to Occidental, or the lack of home mail delivery — it's about the identity of the community.
"We are Camp Meeker," she said. "This is our home, this is what we should have as our address."