Postal Service representatives discuss proposed plan at community meeting
By Elizabeth Sias
Grandy residents may soon have a longer trip to the post office.
The U.S. Postal Service proposed closing the Grandy Post Office, and on Thursday, Oct. 20, representatives attended a meeting at the Grandy Community Center to answer questions and provide information.
The Postal Service announced in July that it would look at closing about 10 percent of its post offices to help balance the budget—the Grandy Post Office was among 3,600 nationwide under review for the potential to close.
The growing use of the Internet is one cause of the agency cutting back to balance its budget; 35 percent of postal transactions nationwide don’t come from retail offices, but through online and other sources, explained Post Office Review Coordinator Margaret Campbell.
“All of the things that used to carry a stamp and used to go through the mail don’t any longer, and of course fewer stamps means less money for us—less revenue,” she said.
Although revenue is shrinking, last year the agency added 735,000 new delivery points.
“Our costs keep rising, yet the mail volume has not grown to keep up with those increased costs,” Campbell said.
Mail volume peaked in 2006 at a high of 700 million pieces of mail a day. Since then, that number has dropped 20 percent. By 2020, the Postal Service anticipates that mail volume will be down to 445 million pieces a day.
Less revenue coupled with a law that was passed in 2006 called the Postal Accountability and Enhancement has put pressure on the Postal Service to make changes. The law mandates that the agency prepay retirement health benefits funds.
“We have to do 75 years worth of payments in 10 years. There isn’t a business on earth that does this,” Campbell said. “We put $5.5 billion into the general treasury fund every year to pre-fund retirees that are not even born yet. And that’s the law. This is handcuffing us.”
Last year the Postal Service reported an operating loss of $8.5 billion. It has cut over 110,000 jobs and over $12 billion in the last four years, with plans to cut another $16 billion over the next several years.
The agency has frozen executive salaries and is looking at reassigning personnel, consolidating offices and cutting down on personnel and transportation costs.
“A lot of things we have no control over. We can’t control Congress. We can’t change the law that tells us we have to deliver six days a week,” Campbell said. “What we can do and what we’re forced to do is to look at some difficult changes.”
During the review, the Postal Service examined workload, proximity to other post offices, the revenues that offices produce, and community feedback from a survey mailed to post office customers. The survey was also available in the post office.
Due to automation and less mail volume, Campbell said, the workload of postmasters has declined. At the Grandy Post Office, Campbell said, the postmaster has about two hours of work to complete each day and the office is open eight hours a day.
Last year, the Grandy Post Office generated $27,900 in revenue. It costs around $95,000 per year to operate the office, and the Postal Service estimates it would save $647,000 over 10 years if the location closed, after taking into consideration the additional cost of an extended rural route as a post office alternative.
Several dozen Grandy residents attended the meeting, many of them expressing dissatisfaction with the proposal to close the post office.
At the Grandy Post Office, 65 P.O. boxes are rented. If the branch closes, the Postal Service is proposing to instead extend rural route service, or customers could rent a P.O. box at another post office, such as Cambridge or Stanchfield. The township’s name and zip code would not change. Those without a rural mailbox could install one, and many services would be offered from mail carriers.
Most transactions don’t require customers to meet the carrier at the mailbox, including mailing packages; purchasing stamps and envelopes; and services such as Certified, Registered or Express Mail and Delivery Confirmation, among others.
However, several people at the meeting expressed doubts of the alternatives, citing inconvenience of changing their address if they lost their P.O. box.
Many residents were concerned about damage to mailboxes or mail theft if packages were left out, while others asked if the post office could remain open with reduced hours.
Most people agreed they didn’t want to lose their post office, as it acts as a community meeting spot and gives Grandy its identity.
Another option is a Village Post Office, or V.P.O. Run by a local business, it would sell stamps, take mail and offer P.O. boxes
The public notice of the proposal will be posted in the Grandy Post Office for 60 days, during which time customers are invited to comment on the proposal. At the end of the 60-day comment period, additional review is made at lower and upper levels of postal management.
When a final decision is made, that decision is posted in the post office for 30 days. No post office may be closed sooner than 60 days after the original date of the final determination.
“The reality is we don’t know if Grandy is going to close,” said Linda Padden, Manager of Post Office Operations for zip codes starting with 550 and 540, near the end of the meeting. “The probability is high. Obviously if there isn’t a post office down the street, it’s going to cause some hardship and make things different in Grandy. We know that… we appreciate your business, and we appreciate your loyalty. That’s from my heart.”