Jacksonville Post Office

Jim Whitaker retrieves a package at the Jacksonville Post Office, which is currently in lease negotiations with the landowner, Blue Ox.

The Jacksonville Post Office is a small, unassuming building that you wouldn’t know was there until it was pointed out to you. But to many neighbors in Jacksonville it is a community cornerstone. Recently, rumors have begun to spread that the post office will soon be closing its doors, and residents are worried about the impact this might have locally. Currently, the post office is in lease negotiations with the property owners, Blue Ox Energy. The current lease is up at the end of December.

Blue Ox Energy also owns and operates the Valero gas station next to the post office. David Martin, Vice President of Blue Ox, said he believes the property was acquired in the mid-1990s, and when the company bought the gas station the post office came with it. Martin said he has seen these negotiations for many years and they are often a cumbersome process.

“We don’t want to upset the neighborhood,” Martin said. “A third party represents the post office and each time the lease ran out they lowered the offer they were willing to pay, and increased expenses we would have to pay.” Martin said the expenses that Blue Ox, as the landowners, pay are usually maintenance type stuff, and as the building gets older the maintenance gets more expensive.

Blue Ox denied this paper’s request to see previous leases between the post office and the land owners. A call to the third-party negotiator that Martin said is representing the post office was not returned by print deadline.

Cheryl Shaw is the only employee of the post office. She too has heard that the lease renewal is still under negotiation.

“As far as I know, we haven’t gotten a renewed lease,” Shaw said. “It’s a concern. There’s rumors that the gas station may not want to renew the lease. There’s rumors that USPS may not want to renew the lease.”

But for those worried that if the lease can’t be negotiated that there will no longer be a post office in Jacksonville, those worries might be presumptuous. Karen Mazurkiewicz, spokesperson for United States Postal Service for western New York, said that it is her understanding that USPS is taking steps to renew the lease, but if the post office were to close the community wouldn’t be left stranded. If the post office were to close USPS would put together an emergency suspension.

“We figure out where in the local area – usually a nearby post office – that we can move the post office boxes for the customers that they can still get their mail until we can figure out what’s going to happen next,” Mazurkiewicz said. If post office boxes needed to move the owners would be alerted with a letter telling them where the boxes will be located. Zip codes would not change.

“If, after the emergency suspension was complete then the postal service would initiate an alternate quarters process,” Mazurkiewicz said.

What that means is that USPS will take a look at what it needs, including space and location. Once that is figured out USPS would put together a package to present to the community and tell residents what USPS is looking for, and explore options.

“Our intent is not ‘Oh we lose this lease, we’re out.’ That’s just a delay,” Mazurkiewicz said. “But the overall thought is that we will preserve a post office in that area if we physically can.”

The Jacksonville Community Association (JCA), a group of involved community residents, brought their concerns of the post office closing to the attention of the Ulysses Town Board. In response, the board passed a resolution in favor of keeping the post office open. According to the resolution, the post office has been in operation at various locations in Jacksonville since 1820, and “represents a vital service for people of the hamlet, including some 100 box holders, some two dozen home-based businesses, other commercial establishments, and a significant population of seniors, individuals with limited transportation, low income individuals, and individuals who receive prescription deliveries via the Jacksonville PO.”

For 13-year resident Amanda Kirchgessner, the post office is a resource and service for the community. She found out about its possible closing at a JCA meeting, and it makes her nervous.

“I’m very concerned, as a local resident,” Kirchgessner said. “I’ve lived in Tompkins County my whole life and I grew up in Enfield. Enfield didn’t have a post office. But you see how important these things are to small Hamlets.”

Kirchgessner is also concerned for the seniors and small business owners in Jacksonville that rely on the accessible and local post office. Some of the JCA members plan on reaching out to government officials like Representative Tom Reed, to tell them about the post office and what it means to the community.

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