For nearly a month, the Grasmere Post Office has been out of service at its former location. A temporary location for parcel delivery has been set up at the Grasmere Community Hall.
Mailboxes have also been installed along the highway by the Grasmere General Store, however the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) has voiced their disapproval for this location as it will easily become buried by the snow plow.
Since November 1, the Grasmere post office has been closed due to a disagreement between Canada Post and the owners of the building. The long-time operators of the post office were not able to reach an agreement with Canada Post regarding costs associated with running the business.
The Free Press previously reported that the sum of money received monthly from Canada Post did not cover the cost of operating the building and property.
Heath and Barbara Slee, owners of the building, explained to The Free Press that the inability to negotiate a ‘fair and reasonable lease of our premises’ left them with no choice but to evict the corporation.
With the next closest post office 44km away in Jaffray, residents of Grasmere and surrounding areas would be forced to travel to send a package.
In the November 2019 RDEK board highlights, plans were highlighted to send a letter to Canada Post on behalf of the regional government. The RDEK explained that their letter would urge the Crown corporation to ‘have a serious look’ at the fee structure for rural post offices.
RDEK Area B Director Stan Doehle said that in conversation with a Canada Post representative in Vancouver, he was told they would look into the matter but has since heard nothing since.
“We’re asking for proper funding to go towards the post office at the Community Hall in Grasmere, so we could make that a permanent location, and get the mailboxes moved from the temporary location at the Grasmere Store over to the Community Hall,” said Doehle.
In addition, Doehle said the RDEK has requested proper funding for the new location. Currently Canada Post pays $127 per month in rent, which Doehle said is unacceptable.
“We’re just trying to make sure there’s a viable business that can come of this whole thing,” he said. “If there is no postal service in Grasmere, it’s a 100km round trip to Jaffray.”
With online shopping a solution for isolated residents in rural communities, Doehle said the post office is an important asset to both the Grasmere residents, residents over the border in the United States, as well as members of the Tobacco Plains Indian Band, located close by.
“It’s real important,” said Doehle. “People still deliver letters, there’s cheques from the government, there’s still a lot of commerce that’s done through the mail service. And then with online shopping, it’s huge.”
He added that the RDEK’s concerns stemmed from a previous history of postal closures in Elko and Galloway. They said they would like to see a permanent solution for Grasmere’s post office.
“We’re hoping for a good outcome, but at this point we’ve had a brief conversation out of Vancouver and they assured us they’d get back, but at this point we haven’t heard what the solution is going to be,” he said.
Kootenay-Columbia Member of Parliament Rob Morrison says he hopes to help arrange and sit in on a town hall meeting in the early new year between the local postmaster, Canada Post representatives, and members of the community, to discuss solutions.
Morrison said he’s hoping for a positive outcome.
“In small communities such as Grasmere, which is just one of many, the post office (is the) place where people meet, have fun and talk,” he said.
Morrison said he understands one of the main issues which brought this situation about was the inadequate funding being paid to the building owners by Canada Post. That being said, Morrison is hopeful.
“It sounds like the community is going to get a post office,” he said. “It’s just a matter of – should we go back to where we were and pay a fair price, because I know that (in) a lot of these communities, the people who have the post offices are not in it to make money, they just want to have it as a central area for people to visit.
“That’s all they want – just the cost. They don’t want to make any money, they just want to pay for the cost,” Morrison added.
Morrison proposed that instead of moving the post office permanently and being forced to fix the damage done to the previous location, to use those thousands of dollars to help support and sustain the business.
“Why not put the money into just paying for the cost? Snow removal is one issue… the heat, the minimum costs,” he said.
Morrison hopes that at the town hall meeting, projected to take place in the first two weeks of January, all parties will be able to come to an agreement on an easy fix, and help return things to the way they were.