Rural Post Offices in danger of closure

Many of Nebraska’s rural Post Offices are in jeopordy - and the communities those Post Offices serve are fighting back. The U.S. Postal Service is currently conducting studies on the state’s smaller and rural Post Offices to determine the fate of those offices. The Postal Service is calling it “Delivery Unit Optimization”, but community members are calling it absurd. Under this optimization plan, many of these rural Post Offices would be closed and customers would be forced to go to a nearby town to pick up their packages or even purchase a stamp. What has most community members up in arms is the fact that this plan will actually only save .07 percent of the USPS operating budget of $586 million. Currently, 13 rural Nebraska Post Offices are being studied for closure, according to Brian Sperry, regional spokesman for USPS. They are Alexandria, Colon, Crab Orchard, Dunbar, Garland, Ithaca, Nemaha, Rosallie, Rulo, South Bend, Miller, Rockville and Venango. Sperry says at this time no decisions have been made on the future of the Post Offices under review. At least 13 more communities have been mentioned for possible review, according to Betty Mapes, Nebraska Chair for Post Office Closures for the National Association of Postmasters of the United States. Those towns include: Boelus and Hordville, who have both already received letters informing them they are being studied, as well as Bloomington, Craig, Halsey, Malmo, Naponee, Concord, Edison, Guide Rock, Moorefield, Parks, Wilson-ville, Upland and Enders. Community members in Halsey are deeply concerned at the prospect of losing their Post Office. “The Post Office is the viable center of our community,” says Colleen Higgins of Halsey. “Our town is mainly elderly people, and this would create an unjust hardship on them.” Higgins also points out that the National Forest and the State 4-H Camp both utilize the services offered by the local Post Office. So does Sandhills Public Elementary School, which serves five counties. Higgins says she fears the entire community would be greatly impacted by closing the Post Office. A public meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, June 29 in Halsey to discuss the issue. The meeting will also include a question and answer session. The meeting will be from 6-8 p.m. in the elementary school gym. Folks in Miller are also deeply upset by the news they may be losing their Post Office as well. Last Thursday about 60 residents came together for a town hall meeting at the Community Building. The meeting was led by Edward Goforth, manager of Post Office operations in central Nebraska. Goforth basically told residents at the meeting that if the USPS determined to close their Post Office, they would be unable to prevent that from happening. A number of Miller residents expressed deep concerns that closing the Post Office would cripple their community. Goforth explained that should the Post Office be closed, residents would be served by a rural mail carrier who would be able to provide many of the same services they are used to at the Post Office. Miller residents have been sent a questionnaire which will be used to help determine the needs of the customers, and ultimately the fate of the Post Office. Goforth explained that if the USPS decides to close the Post Office the process will take at least 90 days. Residents are currently circulating a petition and are encouraged to contact Rep. Adrian Smith and Senators Ben Nelson and Mike Johanns expressing their concerns.