Priority mail: Residents react to Parshall Post Office being on ‘hit’ list
July 29, 2011
PARSHALL – An enclave that caters to the ranchers, hunters and anglers of the William Fork Valley has long included the basics of a town, anchored by its post office since 1906.
Although Parshall has never been incorporated, on Main Street there’s the Parshall Bible Chapel and the remnants of a general/liquor store Dorothy Hammer operated for longer than 40 years until her death this spring.
Just one block away there’s the 74-year-old “PI,” or Parshall Inn, a popular food and drinks joint with 3,599 pennies lacquered in the bar. And nearby, the Bar Lazy J guest ranch.
But Parshall’s “downtown” business district, many say, would be rather hollow without the small building boasting “U.S. Postal Service, Parshall, CO 80468.”
Parshall’s post office is on list of 70 post offices in Colorado and 3,700 post offices nationwide that are being studied for possible closures. The U.S. Postal Service hopes to save $200 million as it faces up to a $9 billion deficit in response to the impacts of internet and digital communications, said Al DeSarro, spokesperson for the western region of the U.S. Postal Service.
Contrary to belief, the post office is not affected by the federal budget, but is its own self-sustaining service, dependent on sales of stamps, packaging sales and postal fees.
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But since 2000, the number of people who have paid their bills by First Class mail has decreased by 50 percent as more consumers adapt to auto-bill pay.
Over the past four years, the U.S. Postal Service has reduced costs through measures such as consolidations, readjusting carrier routes, implementing automated sorting equipment and reducing 100,000 postal positions.
Now the Postal Service is zeroing in on smaller rural post offices around the country, ones where “the customer activity is low,” DeSarro said.
Full-time Parshall Postmaster Grant Burger sorts mail for Parshall’s 50 or so residents.
Out of the Parshall office’s 125 postal boxes, 75 are occupied. A contracted carrier delivers mail from the postal office to ranches in surrounding areas.
Pinned to the bulletin board in the post-office lobby are community notices such as “Horseshoeing Service,” “sagebrush/pasture mowing,” the “Middle Park Fair and Rodeo,” and one “garage/yard sale” announcement.
“I know it’s a small place, but people would be affected,” said PI bartender Katie Caylor, who lives in Hot Sulphur Springs 5.5 miles away, but retains her Parshall post-office box.
When she tried to acquire a postal box at Hot Sulphur a year ago, she said, they were all taken. As of Wednesday, Hot Sulphur’s 330 postal boxes were all still occupied.
“I’m not driving to Kremmling just to get my mail” (12 miles away), Caylor said.
Caylor then referred to the other unincorporated Grand County town with a post office, situated more than 4 miles from the town of Fraser.
“I would think they would close the one in Tabernash, because it’s right next to Fraser.”
According to DeSarro, Parshall residents will soon be formally informed of the post office study, which will include surveys and community meetings.
“The Postal Service will consider their comments and feedback,” he said.
A final determination on the Parshall office will be made in about nine months. If the office is closed, there may be the possibility for a Parshall business to become a postal contractor, selling stamps, supplying post-office boxes and offering flat rate packaging.
“When you shut down a post office, you shut down part of your community,” said Krik Thurow, a ranch hand at the Battle Creek Ranch five miles from Parshall, to which mail is delivered. Burger said he is unsure how a possible change could affect mail deliveries.
For Happy Chicken Ranch owner Jerry Gioia, the small-town charm of the Parshall Post Office appeals to him.
“If there’s a letter with your name misspelled or the address is mixed up, it ends up making into your box anyway,” he said. “And I’m on a first-name basis with my postmaster.”
But at the same time, Gioia said he struggles with the news, given his support for government fiscal responsibility. “I’m for balanced budgets,” he said. “We’re all conservatives until it impacts our lives somehow adversely.”
And for PI owner Jim Kemp, there’s one tiny upside.
“I won’t get any more bills; so that’s OK,” he joked.
Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603