Are We Losing the Clearwater Beach Post Office?
By Anne McKay Garris
The rumor came from several sources. "The new Postmaster of Clearwater has said that Clearwater Beach Post Office will be closed by July 2009."
"Is this true?"
The answer is somewhere between yes and no.
Not in July. The Postal Service has recently signed a lease with the City of Clearwater to continue at the Marina for the next two years.
But, maybe. The lease has in it a clause that will allow the Postal Service to opt out before the two-year lease is up.
The Clearwater Beach post office may move eventually, but not in July. According to Gary Sawtelle, a spokesperson for the Postal Service, the Post Office must cut back because of budget reductions and a task force will be convened in July to study which branches will be closed. They will consider volume of mail, retail transactions and customer visits and what the economic savings of closing the branch would be. They will then have a public hearing in the community and, after making a final decision, notify the community well in advance of the closing.
No action will be taken until October at the earliest, according to Sawtelle.
Bill Bishoff is the newly appointed Postmaster of Clearwater. Even though this is his first appointment to Postmaster, he has been a part of the Suncoast District Post Office system for years. Both Bishoff and Sawtelle made it clear that the decision to move any Post Office branch is not made by the Postmaster, but by the district manager, using information provided for him.
Asked about the rumor of the Clearwater Beach post office closing, Postmaster Bishoff replied, "I can't predict the future, but we won't reduce delivery service and I can't imagine us not having a post office presence on Clearwater Beach with complete delivery and retail services."
Since the Beach Print Shack, located near the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on Island Estates, already has a contract post office where they sell stamps and other post office products as well as receiving mail, the question remains whether "Clearwater Beach" refers to any of Clearwater's islands, or just to Clearwater Beach proper.
The Clearwater City Council has made it clear in a number of ways that they would like to make large changes at the Clearwater Beach Marina. But State of Florida has a hold on the Marina site. The Council has demonstrated their wish to remove that hold in two efforts at bringing an unadvertised, last minute bill to the State Legislature that would remove the State's hold. Two years ago, interested citizens managed to get the marina site removed from the legislation's language before it was passed. This year, State Representative Jim Frishe refused to sponsor the proposed legislation without full disclosure and discussion of the issue by all the people who would be affected by it, which includes the people of Clearwater Beach who would not be happy to see private business take-over of one of the last bay front sites available for public enjoyment and use.
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