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Good News! - - Rural Post Offices to stay open

May 18, 2012

The United States Postal Services has a problem. The organization is losing money, lots and lots of money.

One solution presented last year was to close some of the rural post offices. The residents of the local communities spoke up, and the U.S. Postal Service listened.

Area post offices listed for closure on the first go around included: Comstock, Mason City, Sumner, Oconto and Purdum. Every indication at the time was that more were to be added. Public hearings were conducted and residents were asked to provide reasons why their post office should stay open.

According to U.S. Postal Service Regional Spokesperson Brian Sperry, these and other rural post offices are not going to be closed. Local residents proved their point. For the time being, the local connect will stay, however office hours will be modified to fit current workload.

“Rural post offices manned by fulltime postmasters will become part-time positions,” said Sperry.

“The Postal Service is offering $20,000 to fulltime career postmasters as an incentive to retire early.”

There are 13,000 postmasters who are currently eligible. For those who are not retirement eligible, the amount of the incentive will be pro-rated. Post masters have until June 22, 2012, to make a decision. If they choose to accept they will have to leave the Postal Service by July 31, 2012. Those who don’t will have an opportunity to apply for available positions.

“Since 2000, the U.S. Postal Service has reduced its workforce by 255,000 people without any layoffs,” said Sperry.

Purdum Postmaster Ardis Giles says her entire community is thrilled that the Purdum Post Office will stay open.

“We are doing what we can,” said Sperry.

Mason City Postmaster Joy Hawkins says she is excited for her community.

“I’d hate to see Mason City lose their post office,” said Hawkins. “It’s part of their identity. In the rural areas, the older people especially, have not taken to some of the modern technology. Their mail is very important to them. A text or an email goes away. A letter or card to you put on the shelf.”

Hawkins added that she believes people don’t even write thank yous like they used to.

“It’s important. It’s polite. I think it’s odd we know how to send an email but not a letter.”

Sperry said the Postal Service has seen a 25 percent decline of its First Class mail volume.

“The Postal Service receives no tax payer dollars. It lost $5 billion last year.”

The discussion is not over. Communities will be asked to consider the following: 1) to provide mail delivery service to residents and businesses by either rural carrier or highway contract route, 2) to create a village post office, where a local business houses the post office boxes within their own business, 3) to embrace the modified retail hours, or to move the services provided by their rural post office to another post office nearby.

In proposing reduced hours, the retail window hours would be modified to match customer use, but access to the retail lobby and PO boxes would remain unchanged, as would the town’s ZIP Code and community identity.

“Meeting the needs of postal customers is, and will always be, a top priority. We continue to balance that by better aligning service options with customer demand and reducing the cost to serve,” said Postmaster General and CEO Patrick Donahoe in a Postal Service press release.

“With that said, we’ve listened to our customers in rural America and we’ve heard them loud and clear - they want to keep their post office open.”

Every situation is different, and no changes will occur until at least Labor Day, said Sperry, with some taking up to two years to implement. Once in place, the Postal Service estimates a savings of a half billion dollars annually.

The Postal Service has to see who will take the early retirement incentive and who stays.

“The Postal Service plans to cut $20 million from its budget by 2016, and this is part of the plan,” added Sperry.

The Postal Service has scheduled the closure of several sorting centers, including the one in Grand Island as part of their long-range financial plan, and intend to ask Congress for permission to go to a five day delivery system and to operate its own health care system.
New community meetings will be scheduled to review the new options in greater detail. At the end of May the Postal Service intends to seek an advisory opinion from the Postal Regulatory commission on this plan.

“I’m hopeful that our post offices will stay open for years to come,” said Hawkins.

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