Postal customers were buzzing on Saturday over the sudden closing of the Rio Nido Post Office.
“This is upsetting to all of us,” said Joy Given, a 30-year resident of Rio Nido where the post office has been a fixture since 1908.
The U.S. Postal Service on Friday told customers the Rio Nido Post Office will shut its single retail window for good on Tuesday, June 20. Box holders who get their mail in Rio Nido can still pick up letters and packages there until the end of the month, June 30. After that the boxes will be physically removed and relocated to the Guerneville Post Office on Mill Street, said Friday’s postal service announcement.
Rio Nido residents accustomed to walking to the post office located in the fire station building on Canyon Seven Road will now have to go three miles to Guerneville to pick up their mail, said Given. For some it will be a hardship.
“Do you know how many people here don’t have cars?” said Given.
Rio Nido has approximately 350 post office box customers whose mail will be available in Guerneville starting Monday, July 3, said the USPS announcement. “There will be no changes to the PO Box numbers or mailing address.”
The decision to close the tiny postal facility in the firehouse building was based on a money-losing trend at the operation, said USPS spokesman Augustine Ruiz Jr.
“There has been a steady decline in office visits since 2012, which has caused as much as a 122 percent loss in revenue through 2016, said Ruiz. “From 2012 through 2016, the revenue declines have outpaced the cost in compensation to maintain the contract.”
The Rio Nido postal operation is a contract post office (CPO), meaning the day-to-day operation is contracted out to a private bidder.
“The projected steady decline in customer visits to the CPO is indicative that the market for postal needs is continuing to decline in the Rio Nido area, while at the same time the firm-fixed CPO contract exceeds USPS revenue needed to sustain it,” said Ruiz, in the USPS announcement.
The Rio Nido Post Office contractor, Elsa Watley, was out of the office on Saturday. In a note on the Rio Nido Post Office bulletin board Watkins described the operation for any interested bidders and said she’s moving to Yuma, Arizona to be with her family.
Watkins’ contract was up this month but no new offers came in replace her, said Rio Nido resident John Uniack.
“The contract ran out and nobody bid on it,” said Uniack. A petition was posted Saturday on the Rio Nido Post Office bulletin board asking postal authorities to “Keep the Rio Nido Post Office open” until a new contractor comes forward.
Moving Rio Nido’s PO boxes to Guerneville will add hardship to working customers who can now get their Rio Nido mail at night and on weekends, said Uniack. The Guerneville Post Office locks its doors at 5:30 p.m. weekdays and isn’t open on weekends, except for PO box access until 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
Customers who found the announcements in their mailboxes at Rio Nido’s hole-in-the-wall post office on Saturday shook their heads in disapproval over the closing, the short notice and the prospect of having to get to Guerneville to get their mail.
The postal service doesn’t provide home delivery for most of Rio Nido because it’s considered a flood zone. As for the money-losing excuse, “A post office is not supposed to make money,” said Given.
“They’re trying to make us part of Guerneville,” said Given. “We’re not Guerneville.”