Freistatt Post Office is closed

Friday, March 29, 2013 ~ Updated 1:23 PM

Crews from the United States Postal Service emptied out the Freistatt Post Office on March 29 after closing the facility permanently at the end of the business day with only two days' warning.

Freistatt customers received a letter on March 27 announcing service would cease on March 29, the last business day of the month.

Contradictory exchanges over the status of the post office surfaced in mid-March. Correspondence from postal authorities indicated the lease on the building that housed the Freistatt Post Office expired at the end of the month, and the closing of the facility stemmed from the lease situation.

At a special meeting of the Freistatt Village Board on March 21, it was reported that Brush Creek Partners, the building's owners, with offices in Cedarhurst, N.Y., had encountered no problems in discussions with the lease division of the Postal Service. Andrew Spodek, with Brush Creek, made several counter offers after learning from Freistatt village officials about the deadlock over signing a new lease.

Spodek offered to give the post office the entire building if the Postal Service would pick up the cost of utilities, then offered to cut the rate. Negotiations did not advance, and the closing letter was issued to Freistatt patrons.

Rick Belcher, manager for post officer operations for the Mid-America District, spoke to the Freistatt Village Board in a special session on March 21. Belcher proposed placing cluster boxes on city property by the Freistatt Community Building as an alternative to having a post office.

"I suggested tabling the proposal," said Freistatt Mayor Mike Ortwein. "I wanted information from our attorney on liability of the boxes. Will there be liability on the city if someone slips and falls? Belcher said people were walking to the post office anyway in the weather. but they're not standing there in the weather looking at their mail.

"If they put a cover over it, they'd make people happier," Ortwein continued. "I just thought they were being selfish and not thinking of the people in the community. This is mainly an elderly community. We talked about putting up boxes in the rec room at the senior housing. Belcher said if their man gets hurt crossing the property, they don't want the liability."

Trustees tabled the proposal until their next regular meeting on April 11. Ortwein said the board wanted to get input from the public before making such a major decision. The special meeting on March 21 was called on short notice without a chance to adequately publicize the discussion.

"Belcher told us they would close the post office by the end of the month. I thought they might," Ortwein said. "They found a way to get the post office closed after we saved it."

Postal authorities announced plans in August 2011 to review the Freistatt Post Office's status. A large turnout of residents attended a public meeting on the subject, followed by an extensive letter writing campaign. A federal moratorium on closing post offices announced in December 2011 appears to still be in place.

Freistatt postal customers now will receive their mail in Monett. According to Monett Postmaster Mary Hopkins, the general delivery service of picking up mail at the post office would continue out of the Monett Post Office. In 129 years of service, Freistatt customers had no door-to-door delivery. Eventually a carrier would be assigned to take the mail to a central location in Freistatt when arrangements for such a site have concluded, Hopkins added.

Forms are available at the Monett Post Office for Freistatt customers to authorize another party to pick up mail on their behalf.

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