Zanoni post office to reopen in pricey new ‘alternate quarters’
The U.S. Postal Service plans to spend approximately $270,000 to $280,000 to reopen a post office facility in the Zanoni area, USPS real estate specialist Vee Spikes said Monday at a meeting held at the Gainesville post office.
The new facility will be open two hours a day during the week and four hours on Saturday, operated by a part-time USPS employee who will probably earn about $12 per hour, officials said.
In answer to a question, Gainesville postmaster Jeff Elliott said that, before USPS closed the Zanoni post office in February 2016 under what it called an “emergency suspension,” the facility’s revenue averaged between $500 and $600 per year. The Gainesville post office now manages delivery of mail to the 40 postal patrons with Zanoni addresses.
When the Zanoni post office closed in 2016, those patrons kept their same address and saw little change in how the mail was delivered to their roadside mailboxes. Elliott said during the meeting that five Zanoni customers got their mail through general delivery and picked it up at the Zanoni post office. Now four of those customers get their mail in roadside mailboxes; the fifth customer opted to rent a mailbox in the Gainesville post office.
Looking for land to lease
USPS officials outnumbered residents at Monday’s meeting, which was attended by four people plus an Ozark County Times reporter. The meeting was held to discuss the planned reopening of a post office at Zanoni in what USPS describes as “a permanent new 500 SF Alternate Quarters.” The modular building will be installed when a suitable 8,500-square-foot tract of land can be found and leased in the Zanoni area. Monday’s meeting was to serve notice that USPS is looking for that land to lease. “We’re asking the community to assist us,” Spikes said.
About two weeks ago, a notice about the land search was mailed to Zanoni postal patrons and also posted at the Gainesville post office. One person, Paul Rose, responded. Rose now owns the former post office building on Highway 181 west of N Highway where the Zanoni post office rented space from 1970, when the late Classie Shanks was postmaster, until USPS closed it about two years ago. Before it moved to that building, the original post office, which opened in 1898, was in the old village of Zanoni a few miles east of the current location. Rose has proposed locating the new modular facility on his land near the site of the post office that closed in 2016.
A paper handed out at Monday’s meeting said USPS closed the earlier Zanoni facility “due to failing structural problems.” Another section of the information sheet said the Zanoni post office closed “due to lack of renewal by the landlord.” Spikes said Monday the former building “wasn’t suitable. If anything happened to anyone there, the postal service was liable,” he said.
Asked if USPS had received any consumer complaints about the facility, Spikes said no.
The proposed new modular 500-square-foot building will serve as a “retail-only” facility, selling stamps, accepting packages and renting mailboxes. The mailboxes would be accessible 24/7. The new building will have a bathroom equipped with a “self-incinerating toilet” for use by the USPS employee, Spikes said.
Investing in Zanoni
Paul Rose, who attended the meeting with his mother, former Zanoni postmaster Colene Rose, asked Spikes if a Zanoni post office is needed.
“The importance of a post office in an area is critical,” Spikes said. “If the post office isn’t there, the town dies. The importance of having a post office is whether your community will exist another 10 to 15 years. Yes, it’s an expensive project. But we’re assuming this responsibility. We’re looking to invest in the Zanoni community.”
Zanoni residents Dwain and Betty Morrison also attended the meeting.
Spikes referred to the other USPS officials who stood by as he addressed the meeting as “subject matter experts.” The officials introduced themselves and said they had come to the meeting from Kansas City, Cabool, Poplar Bluff and Cape Girardeau.
Spikes himself had driven from Bloomington, Illinois, on Monday, leaving home at 3 a.m., he said, after he was notified at 1 a.m. that his intended flight later that morning from Bloomington to Chicago was canceled. He would have caught another flight from Chicago to Springfield and rented a car there to Gainesville for the meeting. Instead, he said, he had to quickly arrange for another rental car in Bloomington and drive from there. He wanted to do whatever he could not to have to cancel Monday’s meeting, he said.
He had called ahead to ask that the meeting at the Gainesville post office be postponed an hour from its original 1 p.m. start time. Using a GPS guidance system, he drove from Bloomington and ended up on N Highway in Ozark County, where his rental car had a flat tire. He called the Gainesville post again, and Elliott and the visiting USPS officials set off to rescue him – ironically driving him by the old Zanoni post office on their way back to town. Spikes walked in the door and immediately stepped up to the table to preside over the meeting, apologizing for the delay.
After he presented the postal service’s plan and all the questions had been answered, one of the attendees commented that “$300,000 seems like a lot of money to spend to sell $500 worth of stamps.”
Spikes repeated that the post office would be an investment in the community. But he said “if the community doesn’t want the post office,” residents can notify the county commissioners, who should then relay that information to him. Otherwise, he said, he expects the project to be completed and the new facility to open in about six months.
After the meeting ended, Elliott and the other officials accompanied Spikes to the Rose property on Highway 181 to inspect the proposed site.
Anyone interested in proposing a different site for the facility is asked to contact Spikes at 309-664-4627 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The information sheet specifies that the proposed land “must be within the town limits and the lot must provide at least 8,500 square feet of space with frontage road [access] for employee and customer parking. The lot site should be capable of allowing a building and 8-10 parking spaces or parking available on the street that may be altered to meet handicapped accessibility standards, if necessary. The land must be ‘clear of all debris’ with access to water and/or electricity.” The deadline for proposing a tract of land is Feb. 8.
If another suitable proposal is received, Spikes said, the team will come back to Gainesville for another meeting before a decision is made.