The stucco-sided, brown-roofed building looks little different from the surrounding structures at Napa State Hospital. Out of view of most Napans, however, a post office operates inside, serving not only hospital staff but south side residents — but not for much longer.
While customers at Napa’s two larger post offices cope with parking shortages, the branch on Napa State’s west side remains a quieter option with no shortage of vehicle space outside. That option, though, is scheduled to vanish on Feb. 28, when the branch’s contract with the U.S. Postal Service expires.
Wendy Rodden, who has held the postal contract for the Napa State outlet since 1999, said the agency’s Oakland office notified her in early November it would end the contract. She cited falling revenue over the past five years.
“I think it’s mostly because of the Internet — how you can pay bills online, and how online (retail) has really taken away from the post office,” she said last week at her service desk. “You barely see a first-class letter come through here anymore. Even pictures, those mostly go through Instagram now.”
Open only from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays, it is hardly the hive of activity that the Postal Service’s Trancas Street and Second Street branches can become. But Rodden said the office’s demise still would be a loss to south-side Napans, especially those unwilling to fight for parking outside the downtown branch or at a Trancas Street outlet that has lost most of its parking spaces to a neighboring Jack in the Box restaurant.
Those with the most to lose when Napa State’s branch shuts down include not only hospital employees, but outsiders who have relied on its nearness the longest, she predicted.
It’s a shame to see the people around the hospital lose the outlet, she said after tending to five customers in five minutes. “There are doctors who don’t like to get their mail at home for safety reasons. And there’s people who’ve had P.O. boxes 40, 50 years, and they’re elderly now and it frightens them to see this go.”
Among those hoping for the Napa State branch’s last-minute reprieve is Myrna Baldwin, who has lived in Napa for 33 of the past 40 years. She praised the post office’s quietness and easy parking amid drivers’ difficulties at the city’s other outlets, but said the facility’s existence was a secret to many. She had been unaware of the site until returning to Napa a decade and a half ago.
“If more people knew about it ...” Baldwin said Friday, leaving the what-if implied. “People I talk to say, ‘You mean there’s a post office in south Napa?’ They absolutely don’t have a clue there’s a post office there.”
Postal branches like Napa State’s that are run by contractors, rather than directly by the Postal Service, are considered for closure on a case-by-case basis and are not shut down in groups, according to Augustine Ruiz, spokesman for the agency’s Bay-Valley District in San Jose. Ruiz said shuttering a contract-based post office is exempt from the public input requirements for eliminating a conventional branch.
Two other Napa County post offices have avoided the budget ax as the Postal Service has pondered what to do to deal with multimillion-dollar losses in the past decade, as email and social media have dramatically shrunk the volume of traditional first-class mail.
Post offices at Yountville’s Veterans Home of California and in Oakville were on a list of about 3,700 outlets the agency proposed to wind down because of low revenues. However, public opposition led it to remove the Veterans Home branch from the closure list in March, and the Postal Service in May suspended a plan to start closing other rural post offices, choosing instead to reduce hours at up to 13,000 branches pending reviews.