The power of community Post office key to ‘bustling borough’

By on February 22, 2012

By: STEPHEN SEEBER Record Express Staff, Staff Writer



Photo by Preston Whitcraft
A vocal Lititz community managed to save its downtown post office, located at 74 E. Main St.Photo by Preston Whitcraft
A vocal Lititz community managed to save its downtown post office, located at 74 E. Main St.

Can you imagine Lititz without a downtown post office?

"No," is the firm answer from borough council president Karen Weibel.

"Decayed and faltering," is how she described such a scenario. "It’s the missing teeth analogy. You start to lose too many key pieces of the public infrastructure, and there is no longer a downtown."

Her sentiments were shared by those who petitioned to keep the facility in place after the U.S. Postal Service announced last year that Lititz was on the chopping block, part of an ongoing nationwide downsizing initiative.

The threat has been thwarted.

Last week, the USPS announced it would keep its Lititz branch open, much to the surprise of Kelly Withum of Venture Lititz.

"I was surprised," she said. "We had a conference call in late December and they told us it would be on the market in two months at the cost of $500,000 to $600,000."

The Record Express was unable to reach USPS representative Bob Varano for an explanation on the change of heart. One factor that may have contributed is that the Lititz office, unlike some other facilities, is reportedly making money.

"We obtained reliable data on our specific location," Weibel said.

The more visible factor was the community effort behind keeping the post office in place.

While Venture Lititz, especially Withum and former president Gaylord Poling, were key players, Withum is quick to point out that this is a community win.

"The key component was pretty much as I said in the letter to the editor (see page A5)," she explained. "The community. We sent thousands signatures on petitions, over 500 letters to Pitts, Casey, Toomey and the president. We had people pressuring legislators regularly, and we had a stumbling block for the sale being artwork with historic significance. The PA Historic and Museum Commission was working with us."

"A true community effort," Weibel echoed. "Once Todd Dickinson (local businessman) had the results of an Internet survey, we were compelled to act on the overwhelming sentiment of the community. Scores of residents and businesses joined with Venture Lititz and the borough to make the case that the Lititz Post Office is integral to the viability of our downtown."

"I’m very glad to hear that the U.S. Postal Service heard the concerns of Lititz residents and will keep the downtown post office open," said Congressman Pitts in a statement released Feb. 15. "There was a good business argument for keeping this location open. I worked closely with the elected officials and Venture Lititz to help them speak face-to-face with the postal service management and made sure that the postal service heard directly from the community about the impact of closing this location."

"One of my arguments all along was the negative economic impact the loss would be," Withum added. "We have so many small businesses in the downtown who ship and mail goods, products, documents, etc. daily. And through surveys we found that local citizens who go to the post office would stop at two other businesses in the downtown. There are over 400 active post boxes in our post office."

When the news was first reported in last Friday’s Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era, Lititz was referred to as a "bustling borough."

"If ever there was an ‘authentic’ downtown, ours is it!" Weibel added. "There are many professional offices, public entities, shops and eateries that serve both residents and visitors alike. There are literally hundreds of employees who are downtown every week — two schools, churches, museums, doctors, lawyers, a full-service pharmacy, and a post office. They all add to the synergy of a successful commercial area. Many people are doing business with multiple parties when they come to downtown Lititz. Having the post office located in the central business district means retailers, workers, students, residents and visitors can walk to the post office rather than drive to the annex. And they can find it. The post office is in a visible location, rather than tucked away in and industrial park." More POST OFFICE, page A4