by Jeannette Porter
Amelia County is a quiet place, a rural place, an hour west of Richmond, Va. It has a village post office. Lots of people use it; it’s a place where citizens run into each other.
(See a curated social media flow on rural post offices at http://storify.com/JeannetteHP/parking-bad-at-amelia-post-office.)
Sounds lovely and quaint, doesn’t it? But sometimes those citizens run into each other literally– in their cars, and the sounds that ensue are anything but lovely and quaint.
The Amelia Court House post office is located in a building built in 1959 that came with four parking spaces. One of those parking spaces is reserved for handicapped use, leaving three general use spots for use by a population that has increased 63 percent since the facility was built. To put it plainly, the village’s post office parking situation is bad.
Not only are more people using the post office, they’re actually getting more mail per person. Despite national postal trends, the volume of mail at the Amelia Court House post office is up, and that means more trips to the post office, which makes the parking situation even worse.
Postal Officer in Charge Kimberly S. Johnson began her tenure in Amelia in July 2012. Her records indicate that the volume of letters and flats is down about one percent, she says, but:
“The parcel volume has increased due to people ordering on line,” Johnson said, “and we have the Amazon company in town and the Walmart distribution center. Parcels have increased about 2 percent since I’ve been here.”
Kimberly Johnson, Amelia Court House post office Officer-in-Charge, on why the parking situation has worsened since 2012.
“It’s not enough parking,” said Johnson. “We only provide parking for the carriers that are actually taking routes. The non-carrier people like myself and the clerks generally park on the street or at the Dollar General…As far as customers’ (parking), this is all we have,” Johnson gestured to the front of the building. “And of course, there’s the street parking.”
As if the increase in population and packages weren’t enough, the actual physical layout of the parking lot is easy to get into, but not so easy to get out of.
Talking about parking at the post office, village of Amelia resident Charles “Bucky” Shell said, “It’s been a mess since I moved here in 1968. Nothing has changed here, but the parking is awful having to back out into the street, and I’ve seen many, many accidents.”
See video of Johnson and Shell on the parking situation:
The building is located right on the corner of Amelia and Church streets, an intersection traversed by an average of 2200 vehicles daily, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Traffic Engineering Division. On weekdays, that number is 2300 vehicles.
View Amelia Court House in a larger map
At peak times, such as between 9 and 10 a.m. or any time on a Saturday morning, it’s common to see village postal patrons (Jetersville has its own post office) parking in front of the USDA Citizens Building, the Amelia Baptist Church and the Amelia Antique Mall. There is even a well-worn footpath (in purple on map above) from the Dollar General parking lot next door to the post office.
“Customers tend to complain (about the parking),” Johnson said. “And when they’re trying to back out, it’s dangerous when they’re trying to get back on the road.”
Chris Bletsas, owner of local body shop Amelia Collision Center, said that he gets “three to four jobs a year out of the post office parking situation. Some years it’s more like six or seven” body jobs.
County Administrator Taylor Harvie is familiar with citizen discontent with the postal parking issue, but locates part of the problem with the U.S. Postal Service itself. When times were better, he said, the USPS wanted a bigger facility out on U.S. Route 360 (Patrick Henry Highway), but they dawdled over the process.
“The last conversation I had with them, the bottom line was they had no money,” Harvie said. “’Relocation is off the table due to financial constraints,’ I think is how they put it.”
He said he thinks the post office’s functions will increasingly be handled by UPS and FedEx, but acknowledges the importance of the post office plays in a rural area such as Amelia.
“If they can do something about the parking, it would stabilize them for the next twenty years,” Harvie said.