Sen. Hagan seeks comment on post office closures

Published 4:49 pm Friday, August 12, 2011

U.S. Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) wants the U.S. Postal Service to know what North Carolina residents think about proposed post office closures across the state. Hagan this week urged Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe to listen to residents who would be affected by the closures before making a final decision. In an effort to find cost savings, the U.S. Postal Service has announced it’s studying the potential closure of about 3,700 post offices across the country, including 20 in North Carolina.
The North Carolina post offices under consideration for closure are: Downtown Boone, Cedar Island, Comfort, East Durham, Edward, Fontana Dam, Grassy Creek, ECU Station (Greenville), Hassell, Surf City Fin (Holly Ridge), Brynn Marr (Jacksonville), Norman, Pendleton, Five Points (Raleigh), Century (Raleigh), Roduco, Severn, Speed, Stonewall and Waughtown (Winston Salem).
Sen. Hagan says rural areas that lose a post office would be particularly hard hit by the closures, and she urges the postal service to listen to residents in those areas. “Post offices provide communities with more than just stamps and package pick-up services,” Hagan wrote in a letter to Donahoe. “Many post office locations are gathering centers and lifelines for the communities they serve. This is especially true for our rural communities in North Carolina, which seem to bear the brunt disproportionately of each economic challenge the nation encounters, including the current downturn.”
The U.S. Postal Service also is considering closure of 28 post offices in South Carolina. The list includes a few post offices in urban areas such as Columbia and Greenville, but most are in small towns or rural areas. The U.S. Postal Service says it must consider ways to adapt to customers’ changing practices. “As more customers choose to conduct their postal business online, on their smart phones and at their favorite shopping destinations, the need for the U.S. Postal Service to maintain its nearly 32,000 retail offices – the largest retail network in the country – diminishes,” says the U.S. Postal Service.
The postal service says it will introduce as a potential replacement option the “Village Post Office,” which would be operated by local businesses and offer products and services such as stamps and flat-rate packaging.
Home sales are increasing in areas throughout the Carolinas, although prices remain low, according to real estate associations. The Charlotte Regional Realtor Association says sales in a 10-county region surrounding Charlotte were up 9.7 percent in July compared to a year ago.
The realtor association says Mecklenburg County had 999 closings in July, up from 913 last year, and new listings were down 30 percent in the county, reflecting a declining inventory. The number of homes for sale in the county in July was 8,965, well below last year’s total in July of 11,972. The median sale price in the county in July was $166,895, up slightly from last year’s median of $162,515. Despite the recent improvement, year-to-date home sales for 2011 still lag those for 2010, and it’s taking nearly five months on average for homes to sell.
Year-to-date home sales for 2011 are also behind the 2010 pace in the Greenville, S.C. metro area, although sales are on the rise again, according to the Greater Greenville Association of Realtors. The association says June was the best month for real estate sales in the area since June of last year. The association says 626 existing residences sold in June, up from 338 homes sold in January, although still down 17.8 percent compared to last June.
Nick Sabatine, chief executive officer of the Greater Greenville Association of Realtors, says real estate sales should continue a slow climb, although his association and others are worried that a proposal in Congress to require a 20 percent down payment could halt the positive momentum. Sabatine said real estate associations are urging Congress to reject the proposal that “would just kill everything.”
Most metro areas in the Carolinas beat the national average last year for personal income growth, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.  The national average for the 366 metro areas was 2.9 percent. The rebound followed personal income declines in most areas in both 2008 and 2009.
In South Carolina, the Anderson and Charleston metro areas each had personal income growth of 3.8 percent in 2010, the largest increase in the state. Greenville was close behind at 3.6 percent, while Spartanburg was at 3.3 percent and Columbia was at 2.3 percent.
Charlotte had the most personal income of any metro area in the Carolinas and ranked 35th out of 366 metro areas in the country. Residents in the Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill metro area earned a total of $69.2 billion last year, up 4.3 percent from 2009. The personal income figure includes all income from all sources. The Raleigh-Cary metro area was next in the Carolinas with 44.5 billion in personal income in 2010.
While Charlotte lead the Carolinas, it’s still far behind New York City, the top metro area in the country for personal income with $1.03 trillion in 2010, followed by Los Angeles at $565.4 billion, Chicago at $435.4 billion and Washington D.C. at $323.5 billion. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, only four metro areas (Carson City, Las Vegas and Reno in Nevada and Grand Junction in Colorado) did not see an increase in personal income in 2010. In metro areas nationwide, personal income grew 2.3 percent and property income climbed 0.6 percent in 2010.
The Carolinas did not rank high for entrepreneurial activity last year, according to a recent study by economists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. North Carolina and South Carolina ranked 41st and 50th, respectively, on the State Entrepreneurship Index, a measure of growth in business establishments, business formation, revenue per capita of sole proprietorships and partnerships and patents per capita. The last time the index was released in 2008, North Carolina ranked 29th and South Carolina was 43rd.  New York had the most entrepreneurial activity last year, followed by Washington, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
North Carolina lagged most states when it comes to creating jobs in recent years, according to recently released figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Tar Heel state was 39th for the number of jobs created between June 2006 and June 2011.
North Carolina had a net loss of 163,120 jobs during the five-year period. South Carolina did not fare much better, coming in 30th with a loss of 63,100 jobs. In contrast, Texas lead the nation with 537,500 non-farm jobs created during the period, far outpacing Louisiana in second place with 55,900 jobs and North Dakota in third with 41,700 jobs.
The Tar Heel State fared better on Princeton Review’s annual list of the best colleges.  Ten North Carolina colleges made the list this year of the “Best 376 Colleges” in the country. The list included UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Asheville, UNC Greensboro, NC State, Wake Forest University, Davidson College, Warren Wilson College, Duke University, Elon University and Guilford College.
The rankings are based on data from schools, campus visits, staff opinions and student feedback. Only about 15 percent of the nation’s four-year colleges make the list, which this year also included Clemson University, the University of South Carolina, Wofford College and The College of Charleston in South Carolina.
Raleigh and Greenville, S.C. received high praise recently from RelocateAmerica, which ranked the cities fourth and sixth, respectively, on its list of the best places to live in the country. RelocateAmerica’s research team, which examined data in many categories, including housing, education, recreation, public safety and economic health, gave Austin, Texas the top ranking, followed by Grand Rapids, Michigan and Boulder, Colorado.
Cary, Wilmington and Charlotte also made the list, although they were not in the top 10. RelocateAmerica says cities on its list are “well positioned for economic recovery, already experiencing strong economic recovery or have proven overall economic stability.”
Duke Energy customers in North Carolina will see a 5 percent increase in their residential power bills. The N.C. Utilities Commission approved a 5 percent increase in rates for Duke Energy. The higher rates, which also include increases for industrial and commercial customers, will go into effect September 1. Duke Energy requested higher utility rates to cover higher fuel costs.
Duke Energy prevailed in an appeals court ruling that will allow it to count energy produced from burning whole trees as green energy. The state passed a law in 2007 requiring utilities to produce more energy from green sources.
The Environmental Defense Fund and the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association claimed in a lawsuit that allowing utilities to count the energy from burning whole trees, rather than wood scraps and logging debris, could lead to more clear cutting of forests. However, the appellate court upheld a ruling by the N.C. Utilities Commission in October that said the state’s 2007 law did not specify what type of wood qualifies as biomass.
Vision Airlines plans to discontinue its service from Asheville Regional Airport to Fort Walton, Fla. as of Aug. 19, but the flights may return when the tourist season comes back in the spring.
The airline, which has been offering flights between the two airports two days a week, serving about 600 passengers each month, says it’s temporarily discontinuing service to nine of its 15 destination cities. The airline says it plans to resume a full schedule of flights in April.
Asheville was featured on ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday in a segment showcasing America’s “10 Most Beautiful Places.” Asheville joined other locations, such as Lanikai Beach, Hawaii, the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, Point Reyes, Calif. and Sedona, Ariz. in the segment. Asheville was selected after the TV show received many photographs of the area from viewers. The show, which aimed to make the list geographically diverse, recently sent a crew to Asheville to get more photos and video for the program.
The U.S. Forest Service in North Carolina has closed four hiking trails in the Appalachian Ranger District due to an increase in bear encounters. The Buncombe Horse Trail, Mt. Mitchell Trail, Mountain to Sea Trail and Higgins Bald Trail, and their related camping areas, have been closed after the forest service received reports of about a half-dozen bear encounters in less than a week near Mount Mitchell. Visitors to national forests are encouraged to practice safety measures to reduce the chance of bear encounters. For more information, visit

North Carolina license plates with an image of a black bear generated $102,900 in the last quarter for Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Sales of the license plates benefit the nonprofit organization, which seeks to aid wildlife in the park, including black bears, elk and trout.
The license plate has generated more than $2.4 million for Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park since the plate was launched in 1999. Some of the money has been used to study and protect the estimated 1,500 black bears in the park. The Smokies plate is available from license plate agency offices or from the N.C. Department of Transportation website. Visit www. for more information.

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