Post offices around Montana, including a handful in Madison County could be on the chopping block as the U.S. Postal Service continues to look at ways to save money.
Last week the USPS made the announcement they were putting post offices around the country, many in rural areas, through a review process to see if closing them down would save the agency money while providing adequate postal service, said Pete Nowaki, spokesman with the USPS out of Minneapolis.
The review is the second step in a process that began earlier this year, Nowacki said.
“What postal headquarters did was they took a look at all post offices on the basis of revenue, proximity to other post offices and post office boxes rented – things like that,” he said. “Now they will look at offices a little bit closer – gather some (more) statistics and things like that.”
In Madison County post offices in Norris, Pony and Melrose are all being reviewed. Post offices near the borders of the county under review include Cardwell and Willow Creek. In all, 93 post offices around Montana are undergoing the review process.
If the USPS decides to move forward the agency will initiate a public comment process that will include public meetings and questionnaires, Nowacki said.
“That process will go on for about 60 days,” he said.
The problem with many rural post offices isn’t just the small number of boxes they serve, but the limited postal services business they do, Nowacki said. Some smaller post offices have only about two hours worth of work a day and maybe see two or three customers.
“It’s mostly a matter of people just aren’t using the post offices and using us like they once did,” he said.
The Internet is a big reason. Overall, mail volume is down about 20 percent over the past five years, Nowacki said.
“What we’re looking at doing is trying to find a way to get our network more in line with how people are using us and what their needs are,” he said. “A lot of people use our websites now to buy stamps and prepaid packages and stuff like that.”
Moving forward, if the agency decides to close down a post office, it could offer other services, like contracting with an existing local business to provide postal service, or become a “village post office.”
Other options would be to install clusters of mailboxes for rural carriers to deliver to, Nowacki said.
“We’ll be looking at everything, we’ll be listening a lot and hopefully we can come to conclusions that people can work with,” he said.