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 Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs