The U.S. Postal Service has issued closure proposals for the three Madison County Post Offices that have been under review for months.
The notices were issued last week for the Melrose, Norris and Pony Post Offices and include a description of savings each closure will bring for the USPS and brief analysis of the impacts the closures will have on the community.
The notices came a lot sooner than expected, said Ken Bates, USPS manager of postal operations for western Montana.
Bates has been holding public meetings at post offices around the state, talking to people about the process their post offices are involved in. For the last several months the agency has been looking at post office closures as a way of saving money. Nationwide, 3,700 post offices are being looked at for closure. In Montana, 93 are under review, Bates said.
However, even he didn’t anticipate the closure proposals coming out this fast.
At the meetings in Pony and Norris two weeks ago, he told residents they could expect a proposal to close within two months, he said.
“Probably then I was telling them there would be a proposal within about 60 days, but now they’re coming out a lot faster,” Bates said.
According to the closure proposal for Norris, shutting down their post office will save the agency about $149,000 over 10 years. However, the post office serves about 45 businesses and has 57 box customers. The customers in Norris would probably be served by a cluster of mailboxes, Bates said. Any package that needed a signature would probably have to be picked up in either Harrison or Ennis.
The savings for shutting down the Pony Post Office will be about $277,000 over 10 years. The post office serves about 25 businesses and 112 box customers. Like Norris, Pony would likely be served by a cluster of mailboxes, Bates said. The Harrison Post Office would likely provide other postal services.
In Melrose the saving is projected to be about $463,000 over 10 years. The post office serves about 30 residents and has 115 box customers. Residents would likely get their mail through cluster boxes, Bates said. To receive packages that need a signature, residents would likely have to drive to either Butte or Dillon, he said.
During his public meeting, Bates has heard a lot of different concerns, but mainly the opinions are the same – people what to keep their post office.
“They are very adamant about keeping their offices open,” he said.
Many of the rural postal customers are elderly people who can’t make the long drive to a larger more centralized post office. Some of these customers depend on the postal service to deliver their medication, Bates said.
A major thrust behind the proposals to close post offices is a law passed by Congress in 2006 that directed the agency to fully fund their retirement plan, even for workers who aren’t approaching retirement age, he said.
This has cost the USPS about $5.5 billion and led them to look at several ways to cut costs.
“If it wasn’t for that one law they put into place back in ‘06 we’d still be in the black today,” Bates said.
And since Congress created the problem, it’s important for people to let their U.S. senators and representative know they want it fixed.
“The best thing they can do is get their congressman and senators involved in the process,” he said. “Without that they will close.”
In Norris, Ann Hokanson is working on a petition and letter campaign to try and convince the USPS not to close their post office.
“We’ve just been sending letters in and that’s kind of the best they say they can do,” Hokanson said.
However, the closure notices surprised her. She, like Bates, was expecting they would come later after people had a chance to get their comments in.
The agency will accept comment through Nov. 29 for folks at the Pony and Norris Post Offices. The deadline for comment on the Melrose Post Office is Nov. 17.
Comments should be sent to Mary Anderson, U.S. Postal Service, PO Box 7500, Sioux Falls, S.D. 55117-7500.