HILLSBORO The U.S. Postal Service is closing the Hillsboro post office next week due to safety concerns, but the building's owner and a town resident said it is only a sneaky way to get around a promise to not close rural post offices.
Freda Sauter, of the Postal Service's corporate communications office, said in an email a letter was sent to Elizabeth Bloor, who owns the building in which the post office is located, which said the Hillsboro post office was on emergency suspension and would be closed June 21, and the Postal Service had chosen not to renew its lease with Bloor, which expires June 30.
Sauter said Hillsboro residents' P.O. boxes will be moved to the Queen Anne post office, less than a mile away, and all the same retail services will be available.
Bloor said in a phone interview the safety concern cited in the letter is a slanted floor in the historic building, and she thinks the Postal Service, which has rented the building from her for the past 30 years, would find something else to single out if she did spend the money to have the floor reinforced.
”They'd rather not have the post office there,” Bloor said. “They would like to incorporate with another town and get rid of Hillsboro's.”
Roger Quicke, a former Hillsboro commissioner, agreed with Bloor.
“The town's populace feels that this was a very under-handed way to circumvent a promise to not close any rural post offices,” Quicke said.
In May, the U.S. Postal Service announced it was cutting retail window hours at many rural post offices around the country, including six in Caroline County, in an effort to cut costs. Hillsboro's window hours were to be reduced from eight to four.
“The whole town is up in arms about this,” said Quicke. “They told us the hours would be reduced, but we would keep our post office. It feels like we turned our backs and they slipped the knife in.”
Bloor, an Annapolis resident who, with her business partner, manages several rental properties, said she received the letter about the Hillsboro building's floor in May.
She said she has been updating many things around the building at the Postal Service's request, including electrical wiring, plumbing and the sidewalks, but only in the past few years, since an inspector was sent to look at the building.
“That's when all the trouble started,” Bloor said.
Bloor said even if she paid to have the building inspected by a structural engineer and the floor reinforced, she was of the opinion something else would come up, like a lack of sprinklers or automatic doors.
“I feel like they're asking for more things every few months because they want to close this post office,” Bloor said. “I feel like the building is safe; if I felt like I really had a problem, I would be upping my liability insurance.”
Bloor said she knows the town's residents want to keep their post office, and she is willing to work with them, but she is also tired of working with the Postal Service.
“I hope the town works with me because I'm very willing to work with them, which they know,” Bloor said. “They also know I won't be falling apart if I lose the post office. I have other businesses and I'm 76 years old.”
Quicke said the loss of the post office will be a loss of part of the town's identity.
“It's almost like an office for the town,” Quicke said. “It's kind of like the central point in town for the community.”
Quicke said many of the town's elderly residents, who pick up their Social Security checks and other mail at the post office, might have a difficult time getting to the one in Queen Anne.
“It's not within walking distance as the post office here is,” Quicke said.