Rural post offices to curb hours

Published 10:57 am Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The post office in Dexter, along with those in Lansing and Racine, will reduce its retail window hours to four sometime next year. The change, happening to many small-town post offices, is part of the Post Plan, which aims to reduce costs within the struggling U.S. Postal Service. -- Matt Peterson/

Residents understanding, but concerned about delivery, pickups

Residents in three small Mower County towns learned Tuesday that changes are coming next year at their local post offices under a nationwide Post Plan. While frequent or late-afternoon shippers may be burdened, most are understanding.

“We knew it was going to come sooner or later,” Bill Ihrke of Dexter said about reduced hours.

Retail hours at post offices in Lansing, Dexter and Racine will drop from eight hours to four sometime between Jan. 12 and the beginning of May, according to Paul Knoll, acting manager of post office operations for the Northland District, which includes Zip codes that begin in 546 and 559 in Wisconsin and Minnesota. For many postal customers, that may mean finding new times to reach their post offices for stamps or shipping packages. It also means employees at those post offices, if they choose to stay, will see reduced employment hours. Saturday hours will not be reduced. Furthermore post offices included in these changes will no longer have postmasters if they once did.

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Knoll visited all three towns on Monday where he explained that while weekday retail hours will be shortened, pickup and delivery will remain consistent. But access to post office boxes within lobbies will be available through electronically locked doors when retail operations are closed.

Though some are concerned that the reduction in retail hours is one step closer to permanent closings, Knoll assured the change is exactly why small, rural post offices will not close.

Yet some said their only concerns were about rural delivery and pickup, which will remain. Those who help run businesses understand the move, too.

“I understand they’ve got to change their ways to make money,” added Randy Stephenson of Dexter.

The reduction in hours is hitting many post offices across the nation as postal customer retail visits have declined by 27 percent since 2005, according to the U.S. Postal Service. Knoll added the U.S. previously had 600 mail sorting plants and is down to 400 and could sink to 200 in two years, taking Rochester’s in the process.’

“They can’t run because there’s not enough mail,” Knoll said.

Residents near area post offices weeks ago received surveys in which they selected options including reduced hours, a delivery-only option, using a different post office or setting up a village post office. A village post office is one where a business owner sells stamps, basic supplies and serves as a shipping hub within his or her existing business, such as a gas station. In Lansing, Dexter and Racine, residents voted 85 percent or more for reduced hours.

Knoll said he would provide final information about the time changes at all affected post offices in a week. Changes, however, won’t go into effect until next year as that’s decided by Congress. Administrative duties for affected post offices will likely shift to a larger, nearby post office. Revenue will be evaluated every year at affected post offices, which means some could bounce back to six or eight hours of operation in the future, Knoll added.