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Fargo-Moorhead postal boxes to remain

As the number of familiar blue street-corner mailboxes dwindles across the nation - more than 188,000 boxes nationwide have been removed this decade - a regional postal service spokesman says there are no plans to remove the boxes from the Fargo-Moorhead area.

However, Pete Nowacki, a regional spokesman for the United States Postal Service, said some that are seldom used - less than 25 items a day - could be relocated to higher-density areas. He said the postal service tries to maintain one postal drop box for every square mile in metro areas.

The folks of Otisfield, Maine, are so fond of their lone public mailbox that they blocked it with a snowplow and a backhoe to prevent the Postal Service from taking it away in the gloom of night. Town officials also threatened to chain themselves to the blue box if necessary.

The box is still there, for now, at least. But it's probably a losing battle.

The familiar blue street-corner mailbox is going the way of the pay phone. The removal of tens of thousands this decade as e-mail, online bill-paying and Internet catalogs cause a drop-off in the volume of mail handled by the Postal Service.

This town of 1,700 people 35 miles from Portland doesn't have a post office. It doesn't even have its own ZIP code. And it isn't about to give up its mailbox without a fight.

"It's the town of Otisfield's post office," said Marianne Izzo-Morin, the town's administrative assistant. "We can't buy stamps there, but we can put mail in there and know it'll be delivered."

On June 30, a notice reading "This Box Will Be Removed From Service in 10 Days" was taped to the box outside Town Hall. Postal officials said the box gets only six pieces of mail a day on average, far below the 25-letter threshold that makes a mailbox worth the money.

But when a postal worker showed up to remove the box this week, Izzo-Morin and the town clerk blocked his way and prevented him from taking it away. Izzo-Morin was also prepared to padlock herself to the box. And the town's road commissioner blocked the box with heavy-duty machinery so it couldn't be removed while folks were asleep.

Izzo-Morin has also called state legislators and contacted Maine's U.S. senators (alas, via e-mail). And a "Save Our US Mailbox" sign was put up outside Town Hall.

The Postal Service decided to leave the box for now, pending further review.

The Postal Service has been removing the boxes nationally at the rate of more than 60 per day this decade. As of Wednesday, 176,936 remained, said spokeswoman Sue Brennan. The agency projects it will handle fewer than

180 billion pieces of mail this year, down from 213 billion pieces two years ago as people increasingly turn to other means of communication and other shipping services.

The Postal Service said putting the boxes out to pasture saves money because it doesn't have to paint or otherwise maintain them or pay somebody to pick up the mail in them.

"Removal of underused blue collection boxes has become fairly routine, unfortunately, because it makes good sense," said Tom Rizzo, a postal spokesman in Maine.

Forum reporter John Lamb contributed to this report.

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