ARIPEKA — Getting its own post office was a big deal in little Aripeka in 1895. The prospect of losing it last month was not something townspeople were looking forward to.
But just as he did a few years ago, Carl Norfleet, who’s known by townsfolk as the “unofficial mayor” of Aripeka, saved the day.
Norfleet owns the small post office building on the two-lane Aripeka Road on the Pasco County side of the tiny fishing village. He recently inked a new five-year lease with the U.S. Postal Service that will keep it open another five years. It wasn’t the first time he’d come to the rescue of residents, who need post office boxes because there is no door-to-door mail route in the Aripeka area, north of Hudson, just south of the Hernando County line.
About five years ago, Norfleet bought the post office land and building from his sister, as she had refused to renew the Postal Service’s lease due to what Norfleet said she called unreasonable demands.
“I had some trepidation based on what they (the Postal Service) were telling her,” said Norfleet, but he wanted to keep the post office open for the town.
He moved forward with the purchase and new lease when the Postal Service assured him it would take the building as is and he wouldn’t have to carry the insurance. All was fine until the flood of 2016 from Hurricane Hermine. The post office took on water and disagreements arose about who was responsible for repairs, inspections and other details, said Norfleet. When it came time for a new lease, the Postal Service asked for too much, he said, and he was inclined to let the lease lapse.
But in late October the Postal Service “made concessions,” said Norfleet, who extended the lease until Nov. 1, 2023.
A call to Enola Rice, Postal Service media relations contact for Pasco County, was not returned by press time. Geoff Adams, the temporary postmaster in Aripeka, confirmed that the post office would be around for at least five years based on his understanding of the deal.
Denise Norfleet, a cousin of Norfleet’s, said without the post office she and others in town would have to drive to the Hudson Post Office, several miles south, for their mail.
“That’s an inconvenience, especially for some people who don’t even have a car,” she said.
Carl Norfleet said he had nearly reached the point his sister had several years ago and was “perfectly prepared” to let the post office close, though he was torn because the people in town didn’t want to see it go. He said he kept negotiations going for them.
“I didn’t do it for the post office, I did it for the people,” he said, referring to both times he helped strike a deal to keep the post office open. “I had no second thoughts; the people needed it; I did it strictly for the people.”