News / USA

Economy, Post Office Woes Force Iowa Town Off Map

Kane Farabaugh

The United States Postal Service is facing unprecedented financial losses.  Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe recently told lawmakers his agency needed government intervention by the end of the year to prevent bankruptcy.  The problems of the post office, at a time of high unemployment and slow economic growth, have taken their toll on the town of Searsboro, in the Midwest state of Iowa.  The only thing keeping the town of about 150 people together was its small post office, which closes at the end of September.

Searsboro, Iowa doesn't have much going for it.

"If you go out, and you go out in the country, and you see the old barns falling down, that could be a metaphor for this town," says Jim Roye a Searsboro resident.

For Roye, Searsboro is home.  But in the time he's lived here, the only employer, the grain elevator, closed its doors.  A fire forced the only restaurant out of business.  An embezzlement scandal in the local government left the town broke.

The only thing that was keeping this community of about 150 people together was its small post office.  But now, that is scheduled to close in late September.

"It's just something we're seeing in America, in small towns especially, with the way the recession has hit us," Roye says.

Retired army veteran and Searsboro resident Dave Phipps agrees.

"It's going to pot.  There's nothing happening anymore," says Phipps.

In fact, Searsboro is not officially a town, any more. Residents, including Dave Phipps, voted earlier this year in favor of disincorporating.

"We were not getting anywhere the way we were going," notes Phipps.

Even though less than one third of the town's population voted, most residents say the loss of the post office sealed Searsboro's fate.

"A lot of people wanted to keep it.  It formed a sense of our community," says Roye.

"A post office is very, very important to a small rural community.  And it was very important to the people of Searsboro," notes Deb Collum-Calderwood, the executive director of Poweshiek Iowa Development, also known as POW I-80.  The organization promotes economic development in Poweshiek County, Iowa, where Searsboro is located.

The county had eight incorporated towns.  It's now down to seven.

"It seems like the incorporated areas that have more services to offer their residents seem to be growing and sustaining, whereas the really small communities really struggle to retain the businesses, the people that are living in their communities," adds Collum-Calderwood.

Searsboro's residents faced increasing local taxes coupled with decreasing services.  They voted to disincorporate partially to get help from the state and county governments to fix what is left of the community.

"Streets were a big issue for them," Collum-Calderwood explains. "It's hard, when you have just such a limited tax base to pull from. It's hard for small communities to make those infrastructure improvements."

Though Searsboro's 135-year history seems at an end, Dave Phipps plans to stay.

"I don't know if it will be on the map anymore, but it will always be here, I mean, people love living here," says Phipps.

The problems in Searsboro will not be isolated.  As the U.S. Postal Service looks at more ways to trim its $10 billion deficit, more small towns across the United States could face similar cuts.

You May Like

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs