A public forum with representatives from the U.S. Postal Service, held last Thursday evening at the Cheraw Community Center, attracted about 75 residents who were loaded with alternative solutions, facts and figures, aimed at preventing the relocation of Cheraw’s postal services from the downtown facility to the annex building on Highway 9.
The Postal Service plans to close the historic downtown post office.
A letter from the Postal Service to Cheraw Town Council, dated Aug. 9, indicates postal services for Cheraw will be relocated to the annex building. Bryan Cramer, one of the public forum representatives for the U.S. Postal Service, said they have “decided not to accept the city’s (Cheraw’s) plan. This will be a relocation.” City leaders had suggested expanding the downtown facility to handle the annex work.
The letter also declares the decision to be final within 30 days. But that was not enough to keep city officials and local residents from exerting all efforts to keep the downtown post office alive.
A list of objections from Thursday’s crowd included traffic statistics presented by Cheraw Police Chief Jay Brooks and a long list of comparative facts and estimated renovation costs for the two locations from Cheraw Mayor Andy Ingram.
“You’ve wasted our time coming here tonight,” Cheraw resident Noel Briggs told postal representatives. “It seems as though you’ve put little or no thought into the matter. You never even mentioned traffic! You all knew it, but you said nothing about it.”
Briggs indicated previous efforts to close post offices across the nation were obviously not working if the postal service is still losing money. He suggested they take a stand against this trend. “You are a retail outlet, after-all for God’s sake, do something about it!”
Ingram made several points. “The current location is more centrally located, and is both pedestrian and vehicle friendly. If downtown service is relocated it will reduce business activity and traffic downtown that is so badly needed to retain our current businesses and is needed to attract new businesses.”
There are no sidewalks leading to or from the annex building for pedestrian use, said Ingram, and traffic on Highway 9 “is already a nightmare.”
“Cheraw is notorious for putting buildings where we ask them not to,” said Chief Brooks. “We asked, for example, not to put the Intermediate School that close to the high school because of the traffic problems it would create and you see how that is still.”
Brooks asked the crowd to consider the traffic and businesses that currently exist for a half mile on either side of the annex building on Highway 9. “That’s from Tech (Northeastern Technical College) to Dr. Joe’s office,” he said. “From 2005 to 2007 we had 9 wrecks to occur within that stretch of Highway 9. Then Walmart opened in ‘07, and in the next four years, for that same stretch of road, we had 39 accidents including 4 fatalities.”
The annex building, constructed in 1998, sits along Calvary Road, which also leads to INA Bearing Company’s Plant 2 facility. “That road is almost narrow enough to be called a lane and it’s eaten up with pot holes already,” said Brooks. “Not only is there not a traffic light at the end of Calvary; there’s no room to add another light there.”
In addition, Brooks said, “There is an adult daycare facility on Calvary Road that runs 50 to 60 PDRTA buses a day. And, already, someone from FATZ Restaurant calls everyday about trucks coming through their parking lot to come out at the light.”
“Oh, and there’s one other problem at that corner,” said Brooks. “The town’s brick welcome sign there is surrounded by wetlands.”
“Who will pay for traffic lights and sidewalks?” Cheraw resident Margaret Reid asked. “Because we don’t need stamps to go up any more.”
Postal officials listened to the various grievances for more than an hour and a half. Cramer relayed their reasons for recommending relocation as primarily cost motivated. Cramer did, however, admit “we didn’t consider traffic.” He also agreed to send a copy of Ingram’s pre-written survey to every resident in the 29520 zip code.
The survey will offer an opportunity for postal officials to hear from their customers, said Ingram, and will ask questions such as, “Will relocating this post office service out to the Hwy 9 annex cause you any inconvenience?”
According to Cramer, the modular units, suggested by city officials, “are only considered as a 15-year option. The brick structure on Highway 9, built in 1998, provides a 50-year option,” he said. Cramer also said the use of ramps to transport mail to and from the modular units at the downtown facility would create problems in safety for employees and could possibly compromise the condition of the mail in bad weather. Liability, in terms of security, is also an issue with modular units, said Cramer.
Opponents told postal officials the loss of mail services downtown would only be part of the problem Cheraw residents would then face. Economically, they say, the loss of traffic generated by trips to the post office will impact many local businesses downtown.
Harry Spratlin, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service, said, “further comments from the public will be accepted until Monday, Sept. 3, as part of this forum.” Those comments may be mailed to Public Comments, Cheraw Relocation, P.O. Box 929993, Columbia, SC 29292-9993.
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at email@example.com.