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Chestnut Mountain post office may be cut by USPS
Postal service plan includes "village" post offices operated by local businesses
Shannon Dockins, of Chestnut Mountain, finishes her business at the Winder Highway post office Tuesday afternoon.

The Chestnut Mountain post office may be wedged between a pawn shop and a gas station, but for local residents, it's a safe haven for their mail — a safe haven that may be disappearing.

The office is on a list of 45 in Georgia and 3,700 across the country that may close as the U.S. Postal Service studies customer service and looks for a way to cut losses.

Shannon Dockins uses her post office box in the South Hall office's tiny lobby to receive checks and swap books, puzzles and DVDs with family members in South Carolina.

She applied for the box after she had an $84 check stolen from her mailbox.

"It only happened once, but one time is enough to scare you," she said.

Brian Johnson, who recently moved to Chestnut Mountain and runs a Bible ministry, set up his post office box Tuesday. Johnson also had checks stolen from his mailbox, some of them ministry donations.

"I go down to the P.O. box almost daily to check mail, so it's important to have one close," he said.

But Dockins, Johnson and others in Chestnut Mountain may have to move their business elsewhere.

The postal service lost $8 billion last year and is projected to have a loss this year, said Michael Miles, communications manager of the Atlanta district of the postal service.

The postal service announced the study as part of an effort to downsize as more customers conduct business online.

"Looking at closing post offices is a way of addressing the changing mailing needs of our customers while also addressing the financial concerns of the postal service," he said.

The study looks at low revenues, proximity to other offices and activity levels at post offices, Miles said.

He added that no post office was chosen for the study based strictly on flagging revenues.

"By law, we can't look at closing a facility strictly for financial reasons," Miles said.

The postal service has about 31,000 offices nationwide, and many of them are losing customers as more people use computers and smart phones to manage their mailing needs.

As a result, the postal service's national network of offices has become a tangled and crowded web. Many of the offices chosen for the study are within a few miles of another office and have only a few customers, Miles said.

"There was a time when we had more visitors to post offices. We don't have that traffic as we once did," he said.

But the Chestnut Mountain location is busy enough, Johnson said.

"I think it has enough service, the business is good and the lady behind the counter is great," he said.

Chestnut Mountain's post office, located at 4103 Winder Highway, is a unit of the Oakwood post office. The Flowery Branch and Oakwood offices are within five miles.

"We wouldn't look at closing an office if it a put a real hardship, in the sense of, the next post office was 15, 20 miles away," Miles said.

But the distance is far enough for Dockins.

As she pressed a few colorful stamps onto a handful of thick envelopes at the post office, she said she didn't like the idea of driving to Oakwood or downtown Flowery Branch for her mail.

"I'm 65 years old, and gas is $4 a gallon, and I need a post office close by," she said.

Part of the postal service's efforts to continue its service includes introducing "village" post offices, which would be operated by local businesses, such as pharmacies or grocery stores, and would offer products and services such as stamps and flat-rate packaging, according to a news release from the postal service.

If a post office closes, representatives from the postal service will solicit local businesses to set up a village post office.

If the city established a village office, it could retain its zip code, Miles said.

Miles did not know at press time how long the study would take or when certain offices would close. If a post office was selected to close, there would be at least a 60-day period to notify the community and set up public hearings.