Dayton calls on congressman to protect its tiny post office Bartlett to visit Monday for briefing on the town's concerns WEST COUNTY


It's not an imposing structure, the little white block building on Ten Oaks Road in Dayton, but it can't be missed.

The red and blue horizontal stripes should make it easy for Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, R-6th, to spot when he arrives Monday afternoon to discuss whether the tiny post office will be closed.

"It is basically just to get a full briefing on what's going on with the Dayton post office," said James Lafferty, an aide to the freshman congressman.

Mr. Bartlett, after receiving letters from Dayton residents concerned about rumors that the post office will be closed, set up a meeting with Richard W. Rudez, Baltimore district manager for customer services.

In June 1991, the Dayton postmaster's position became vacant when Postmaster Mary Lee Barnes was promoted to postmaster at the Glenelg post office, which is in a small strip shopping center two miles north on Ten Oaks Road.

The vacancy has triggered a review of whether the Dayton post office should be closed, merged with another office or allowed to continue its current operations, Mr. Rudez said. Postal Service policy calls for a nationwide evaluation of post offices when there are vacancies.

Dayton residents have been signing petitions at local businesses and writing Mr. Bartlett in an effort to keep the post office open.

Mr. Rudez said the post office could not be closed until a town meeting is held in the area. The evaluation process is "heavily involved with the community, and they'll have plenty of opportunity to give us their input," he said.

The evaluation will begin Saturday with a two-week survey of mail volume and counter business.

For about two years, the Dayton post office has served as a training station for officers-in-charge, who graduate to become postmasters elsewhere.

"We get an awful lot of mail," said rural carrier Tom Brown, who delivers to 470 mailboxes in Dayton's 21036 zip code and staffs the office, along with officer-in-charge Sharon Phillips.

He noted that the area has a growing number of home-based businesses that depend on convenient postal services.

More than 500 homes and businesses count on the Dayton post office, which was built in the early 1960s.

The volume of mail, which postal authorities will be auditing, has grown from an average of about 4,250 letters a day two years ago to about 5,500, an increase of nearly 30 percent.

If the post office closes, Mr. Brown, who has delivered mail in Dayton for more than 26 years and is nine years from retirement, probably will deliver out of the Clarksville post office.

Although some fear that Dayton could lose its identity along with its post office, "Dayton" could still be used in conjunction with the 21036 zip code. Residents of Marriottsville, who lost their post office in the mid-1980s, are still allowed to use Marriottsville in their addresses.

There has been a post office in Dayton as far back as 72-year-old Leonard Hobbs can recall. Mr. Hobbs, proprietor of Hobbs Service Center just up Ten Oaks Road, said he remembers when the post office was in the house next door to the current post office.

Richard Day, another Dayton resident, lived across from the post office site as a child. "I remember going into the old one, the one that was a store and a barbershop, when I was a little kid," he said.

"You go to this post office and you never have to stand in line. Down at Clarksville, there's always a lot of people in line," Mr. Day said.

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