SPANISH FORT – City officials hope that a federal court in Washington might not only help save Spanish Fort’s post office, but could affect postal policies that have caused other communities to lose their services.
The Spanish Fort City Council has appealed the decision by the U.S. Postal Service to close the community’s post office to the federal district court in Washington. David Conner, city attorney, said Spanish Fort is seeking to overturn a decision by the Postal Regulatory Commission.
“Back in December with the closing of the post office looming, we filed an appeal of the closing with the Postal Regulatory Commission,” Conner said. “Just as we were afraid of and just as they've done in the last 20 or 30 years, when people have filed appeals of post office closings, the Postal Service filed a motion to dismiss the appeal on the grounds that because the Spanish Fort Post Office is a contractor post office, as opposed to a postal service operated post office, then it is not required to follow the closing procedures that are set forth in the United States Code.”
Conner said the city’s case to the federal court is that Postal Service procedures are not what was intended by the law.
“The Postal Regulatory Commission has affirmed that position, even though we believe that is not necessarily what Congress intended and is not in accordance with the plain language of the statute they have adopted there,” Conner said.
Conner said the law allows exceptions when a post office is a “sole source,” a community’s only source of postal services, but the sole source exception is almost never granted.
“They have defined sole source in such a way that I'm not aware of any post office in recent times that qualifies as a sole source,” Conner said. “You would think that if you're closing the only post office in a community that you would be closing the sole source, but they basically find that if you're able to buy stamps at a retail outlet like Rouses or somewhere else in your city, if you have rural mail carrier service that delivers to your house and you can buy stamps from your rural mail carrier or if you have another post office within seven, eight, nine miles, regardless of whether it's in your city or not, they do not consider you to be a sole source.”
Councilman J.R. Smith said the exception rules do not set a limit on how far another post office would have to be to allow the sole source exception to be applied.
“I didn't see any limit to the mileage that they could put on it. There were some that said that there was another post office seven miles so that wasn't a sole source, but they could say 20 miles. I saw nothing in writing indicating what the distance, the minimum distance would be,” Smith said.
Conner said the city is now waiting on the federal court to set hearing dates for the appeal.
The Spanish Fort Post Office on US 90 closed in January. At the time, Postal Service officials said the contract to operate the facility had expired and no new contract was selected.