News / USA

Economy, Post Office Woes Force Iowa Town Off Map

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.

Kane Farabaugh

Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs