Post Offices May Cut Hours

Several area post offices could have their window hours cut, according the the U.S. Postal Service. In a budget-cutting move, the Postal Service could reduce window hours at 13,000 rural post offices nationwide, 222 of 325 post offices in North Dakota. In September, the Postal Service began the process by sending notices and surveys to affected residents.

The Postal Service’s proposal includes reducing window hours in many rural post offices by half, rendering most open for four hours a day. Rural post offices that are more than 25 miles from another post office would be reduced to six hours per day, according to Pete Nowacki of the U.S. Postal Service in Minneapolis. Lobby hours would remain unchanged, so residents will still be able to access their P.O. boxes, and mail delivery would also remain unchanged.

Under the proposal, postmasters in offices with reduced hours would be given several options. In June, postmasters in affected offices were offered a $20,000 early out incentive. Postmasters can also choose to apply for positions in other post offices. Some may also have the opportunity to take their retirement and return to the Postal Service as a part-time employee. Those who choose to remain will have their positions downgraded in Sept., 2014.

Local post offices with proposed hour changes include; Dazey, from four hours to two; Litchville, from eight hours to four; Kathryn, from eight hours to four; Nome, from four hours to two; Oriska, from eight hours to four; Tower City; from eight hours to four; Sanborn, from eight hours to four; and Wimbledon, from eight hours to six. Window hour changes will be phased in over the next two years.

In the next several weeks, residents in affected communities will receive surveys requesting a preference for one of four options regarding the future status of their post office. The options are: keep the office open with reduced hours; consider closing the office and put up roadside mailbox delivery with retail and delivery service done by a rural carrier; consider closing the office and find an alternative site such as a contractor (i.e. mail service at the local convenience store); and consider closing the office and have mail service through another local post office.

Residents will also receive notice of the date, time and location of a public meeting. At that meeting, postal officials will share survey results and answer questions. Not all meetings have been announced, but the Kathryn meeting will be held on Thursday, Nov.15 at 2:30 p.m. at the post office.

Initially, the Postal Service proposed closing small post offices in rural areas, but public outcry and a reluctant legislature forced the office to abandon the plan. The cut-back plan, as proposed could save the Postal Service $500 million per year.

“We are very concerned about our post office,” said Shirley Sivertson, Kathryn City Auditor. “ We hope we get to keep it open at least part of the day.”

Kathryn is a community made up largely of older people, and they worry about getting medications in the mail, as many of them do. They are especially worried about temperature-sensitive medications, according to Sivertson. If they are left in a roadside box they may freeze or get too hot.

Sivertson is also worried that hand-written cards and letters may go the way of the post offices. Her friends all look forward to getting mail, she said.

“We need that contact,” she added.