Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014
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Bring it back: Aripeka united in cause to reopen post office

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Published:   |   Updated: October 26, 2013 at 09:23 PM

ARIPEKA - For the last month and a half since the Aripeka post office closed, residents in the village have had to make a 15-mile round trip to Hudson to pick up their mail.

Compared to a mailbox, mail truck or community post office, it's an inconvenience. It's a bit more than an inconvenience for Aripeka residents who are disabled, without transportation and without driver's licenses.

"We are like a community in limbo," said Anna Rock, a 43-year Aripeka resident and retired Brooksville post office employee. "Traffic on U.S. 19 is not safe. There are a lot of crazy drivers out there, and the snow birds are going to be coming back, which makes it more difficult."

It was a change in terminology on the Aripeka post office's government lease that caused the liability insurance to spike for the building's 83-year-old renter, Rock said.

So while the renter used to pay $600 a month, with the new terms of the lease, the renter would have to pay out of pocket to keep the post office in the community.

"She would want the post office here just as much as any of us," Rock said of the renter.

And on Sept. 13 the Aripeka post office closed its doors. With no "closed" sign in the windows, residents of the village pulled in vain on the handles of its locked doors, knocked and shaded the sun from their eyes and peered inside the empty building.

But there's reason to think treacherous, involuntary commutes to Hudson might one day soon be a thing of the past for Aripeka residents.

Carl Norfleet, a long-time resident who owns and leases the village general store, purchased the post office building one week after its closure. He did so intending to lease it to the U.S. Postal Service if they would work diligently and in good faith to reopen the post office.

"It's not about the money. We'll come to an agreement about the money real, real quick," said Norfleet. "Cut through all the red tape and get it done. If it were you and I we'd already had it done, but there are certain procedures they have to go through, and the people I've talked to seemed sincere and seemed to want to get it done."

Since Norfleet bought the building, the community has hoisted a new flag, painted the inside and outside of the post office and have the lights on again.

Rock and other members of the community have been persistent in their correspondences with the postal service, Norfleet said. And on Friday morning, Rock received an email and call she had been waiting for, and for what felt like a lot longer than the three weeks it took to receive a response.

That response came from David M. Jordan, manager of operations programs support for the U.S. Postal Service, Suncoast District.

"While I cannot get into specifics regarding any type of negotiations," Jordan wrote in an email, "I can tell you that the process is moving along and there are several different avenues being looked at to facilitate a move back into the Aripeka Post Office."

"As I am sure you can understand, an organization such as the Postal Service has many rules and regulations that must be followed regarding the establishment of a 'new' location within a community," Jordan added, noting the location was "new" because the lease had expired. "We are working to ensure this situation is finalized as quickly as possible and as soon as any information becomes more definitive I will be sure to provide it as I know all Aripeka residents are deeply interested."

Both Norfleet and Rock were encouraged by Jordan's response, they said.

"We haven't had any communication and it's been three weeks or more," Rock said. "I decided I got to do something and not let this die."

Aripeka residents received word of the postal service update through a bulletin board outside the general store - a major village landmark where many, if not most, have purchased goods over the course of many years.

With their fingers crossed, residents anticipate negotiations in the coming weeks and maybe even a post office by the winter holidays.

"The money from Aripeka spent in that store," Norfleet said. "it's buying the post office."

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