KINGMAN, Maine — She has been living in town only since April, but Kathleen Davis-Page doesn’t want to see elderly or disabled residents forced to travel 14 miles for postal service.
That’s why the 53-year-old Connecticut native, a retired group home manager and job coach, is leading a group of residents opposing a U.S. Postal Service proposal to close the full-service office this small northern Penobscot County town has had since 1871. The group will meet at Kingman Elementary School at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17, to rally more supporters and plot a solution, she said.
Kingman is a town of about 260 people, according to the most recent census. It is located about 20 miles northeast of Lincoln and about 10 miles east of Mattawamkeag.
“We have a large number of older folks, some of them disabled individuals, and to be without the post office for them would be extremely difficult considering that the closest one to them would be 14 miles away,” Davis-Page said Sunday.
Under the Postal Service plan, Kingman would be served by carriers working contracted postal route services. Carriers would deliver mail and sell stamps, handle money-order sales and package mailing and delivery, she said.
“One of the concerns everyone has with that is that if you wanted to mail a package on a winter day, you would have to stand out in the street and wait for delivery to come,” Davis-Page said.
Residents shouldn’t assume that their post office will be closed. It is among 30 post offices that could be closed under a U.S. Postal Service plan to close 3,653 offices nationwide over the next year, said Tom Rizzo, spokesman for the northeast New England postal district, which has its headquarters in Portland.
The Postal Service has cut 110,000 jobs and reduced costs by $11 billion since 2008 but needs to offset a projected deficit of $8.3 billion this year.
Thirty-four offices were originally on the closure list but post office leaders restored four because they could not find a more cost-effective means of providing service, Rizzo said.
“For one reason or another, we couldn’t justify it [office closures] in a business sense, which is what we are looking at here,” Rizzo said. “It did not make sense for us to go forward.”
“None of these cases are predetermined,” he added. “We do take customer input, and we do look at the fact of the distances people will have to travel.”
Alaska, a rural state more sparsely populated than Maine, has had 30 offices lifted from the closure list because of its rustic nature, Rizzo said.
“Our guiding principle,” Rizzo said, “is can we be effective at delivering the same services through alternate means.”
In Kingman’s case, Postal Service officials could consider contracting postal services through a local business or government office, Rizzo said. Those offices could provide most or all postal services without the cost of postal employees or building maintenance.
Kingman residents have been told that besides the contracted carrier service, their postal boxes and other services would be transferred to the nearest post office, in Springfield, about 14 miles away, Davis-Page said.
“The distance is absolutely unacceptable for all of us,” said Davis-Page, who has visited every one of the roughly 80 houses in town and said that, according to what she has heard from residents, the loss of retail services is opposed by almost everyone in Kingman and nearby Macwahoc.
Beth Turner, a state representative of House District 11, which encompasses 2,100 square miles in northern Hancock, Penobscot and Washington counties, said that one of the six post offices targeted for elimination within her district, in Topsfield, has been saved.
Turner said she doesn’t know whether any others also will be removed from the list.
“In a lot of ways, I feel that this is an attack on rural America, and even in rural Maine, we deserve services,” Turner said Sunday. “I have been in contact with Sen. Snowe’s office, and my hopes are that all five of my post offices remain open in my district.”
Under Postal Service plans, closures wouldn’t begin until after Christmas. Residents have 30 days to appeal a closure. Closure notices are posted for 60 days, Rizzo said.
The Postal Regulatory Commission, an independent watchdog agency, has up to 120 days to rule on appeals of Postal Service decisions, he said.
Davis-Page hopes to have swayed federal and state leaders by then. Besides circulating a petition and hosting meetings, she and her group are seeking support from the state’s federal delegation and local leaders. Anyone interested in joining her group can call her at 765-2049.
“People need to understand that just because they continue to get mail in the mailbox, that doesn’t mean they aren’t losing something. They are losing something,” she said. “We have nothing to lose if we try. Even if we lose, we can still say we fought for it.”