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Oliver Post Office rescued

A “misunderstanding” over a lease agreement.

That is the reasoning why the U.S. Postal Service announced plans to close down the post office in the town of Oliver on April 17, only days later to rescind the order because the leaser and the post office had reached a compromise.

A concerted effort saved the Oliver post office that houses 94 postal boxes in a town which has approximately 250 residents.

Days after the postal service had announced that the post office would be relocated to Newington, Oliver Mayor Justine Brown met with U.S. Postal Service South Georgia District Manager Julius Locklear on April 9. Brown, however, did not invite just Locklear.

She also invited the whole town.

An estimated 35 residents during the middle of a workday squeezed into the single-roomed city hall to listen to Locklear’s comments about the Oliver post office transferring its 94 boxes and services 5.28 miles down Highway 24 to the Newington post office.

Locklear, however, declined to enter the building where the residents were seated as he stopped outside the door to city hall for the 1 p.m. Thursday meeting. Locklear, Brown and David Disharoon, a representative of the National League of Postmasters, spoke on the city hall grounds until Locklear said he was not going to discuss the issue through the “media.” As they spoke outside city hall, a Savannah television station cameraman and a Sylvania Telephone photographer documented their discussion.

A group moments later would meet a mile away at another location, without the residents present, to discuss the future of the Oliver post office.

That’s where Brown received good news about the local post office that has been in operation since the 1930s.

“I have good information for you,” Brown told those who waited at city hall for word on the post office. “I think that we will be OK. I feel very, very good.

“Thank you for rallying around me,” said Brown, evoking cheers from the residents. “I am here to tell you the post office will stay open. I am just elated. I am happy.”

Screven County Commissioner Will Boyd attended the early afternoon meeting to offer assistance, if necessary, and support the cause.

“The city of Oliver should be very proud to have a mayor Mrs. Brown,” Boyd told those who gathered.

Among the group who came to the city hall meeting were members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference chapter that was recently established in ScrevenCounty.

“I am glad it all worked out,” said Sheriff Mike Kile, who joined his brother Oliver police chief Pat Kile.

Gwen Young, an educator, also praised Brown.

“She is one smart Christian lady. She is one smart Christian lady,” Young said aloud inside city hall.

“The community is very lucky to have her,” Disharoon said of Brown. “She is not going to lie down.”

But the good news of Oliver was not without its blockades. Letters of explanation were sent earlier this month to the Oliver customers affected to inform them that their postal service would be moved to the Newington post office.

The Oliver post office’s last day was scheduled to be April 17. After that date, all the services would be relocated to Newington.

Then on April 9, Locklear chose not to come inside city hall where the residents were sitting. He instead requested to Brown speak outside.

After approximately 10 minutes of talking on the city hall grounds, the group then moved its meeting to the Little Ogeechee Baptist Church sanctuary. The group was joined by Oliver city council members and select residents.

When the meeting adjourned, Locklear refused to say what decision had been made. He said Brown should make that statement.

“This is her town. She deserves the right to tell the residents at city hall,” Locklear said. “She has to do that.”

Locklear said the meeting was moved to the church sanctuary because he expected to meet with Brown, not with other residents. The meeting at the church would last approximately 45 minutes.

“There is a process we have to go through,” Locklear said. “I thought we were going to have a private meeting.”

Locklear and another postal service associate then left from the church parking lot and did not return to city hall.

“I think it was good we went into a church,” Brown said to a chorus of “amens.” “I think we needed some oil. God is good.”

Brown said she had been troubled with the possibility of the Oliver post office closing for weeks.

“I’ve had a hard day,” said Brown, who admitted she has not slept much recently because of the ordeal. “I am just glad it is over. I think we can move forward. We think the Oliver post office will be kept open.”

Disharoon, who Brown applauded for his assistance, said they have a commitment to leave the post office’s operation as is. The post office will get in touch with property leaser, who resides in San Francisco.

The reason the postal service gave to close the Oliver location was an increase in rent.

Michael Miles with U.S. Postal Service corporate communications, based out of Duluth, Ga., told the Sylvania Telephone April 7 that the postal service considered the rate excessive. The rate, in reality, was to stay the same.

The postal service representative said with 3,300 post offices in the state it is not unusual at all to have multiple towns’ post office boxes housed in one building.

Miles wrote in an e-mail to the Telephone a day after the postal service-Brown meeting that Locklear, Taylor and Oliver city council agreed to “continue to work with the owner of the post office property to see if things could be worked out to avoid suspension of service at the office.

“While [Locklear] did not give them a timetable for resolution,” Miles wrote, “we do know that for now and for the foreseeable future, the Oliver Post Office will remain open.”

“Some of it could have been because of a misunderstanding,” Disharoon said. “I just hope it was a misunderstanding between the postal service and the leaser. We now have an agreement to keep the rental at the same rate.”

The population of Oliver, at the time of the 2000 census, was 253 of the county total of 15,374. The postal service also has offices in Sylvania, Dover and Rocky Ford.