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Postal cuts threaten town hubs

  • At the Annapolis Post Office, employee Norma Jahn, top, greets from left, Deedee Shanky, Cheryl Amaya and Nancy Dew. The post office is slated to be closed in the coming months because of postal service cost cutting. (KENT PORTER/The Press Democrat)

The sawmills in Annapolis have shut down, the apple orchards are mostly gone and the only store in town burned down about 20 years ago.

Now the rural hamlet, home to about 500 people in the far northwest corner of Sonoma County, faces the loss of one of its last remaining institutions, a one-room rustic post office on a curve in Annapolis Road six miles from the coast.

Among the 3,700 post offices nationwide targeted for possible closure by a deficit-ridden U.S. Postal Service, the weathered, wood-frame post office built in 1901 is more than a place to pick up mail and buy stamps.

“It's like a hitching post,” said Brother Toby McCarroll of the Starcross Community, harking back to Annapolis' 19th century origins.

A bulletin board provides space for notices and longtime postmaster Rae Brodjeski is a human conduit for community concerns, like the latest missing dog.

“If I find a dog, I'll call her,” said McCarroll, whose monastic order has been an Annapolis fixture since 1975.

But in the Washington, D.C., accounting over the Postal Service's multi-billion-dollar losses, the social fabric of communities like Annapolis may not count for much.

The Postal Service, a self-funded federal agency, faces steadily dwindling revenues brought on by a epochal shift in human communication to the Internet, with e-mail, texting and social media supplanting letters and stamps, now derisively called “snail mail.”

In small communities especially, the prospect of losing a post office is stirring protests, with members of Congress, including North Coast Reps. Lynn Woolsey and Mike Thompson, expressing concern.

“They want to rip the heart out of the downtown,” said Barry Vogel, a Ukiah attorney opposing the plan to move all postal services from the historic office downtown to an annex on the east side of the city near Highway 101.

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