Post offices plan meetings about shortened hours

The United States Postal Service will seek community feedback on its decision to reduce retail hours, which will affect seven rural post offices in Mower County.

The USPS is considering the plan as a means of lowering costs and returning to financial stability. Under the proposed plan, rural post offices would remain open unless a community strongly preferred an alternative. Instead, many additional rural locations would see their retail hours cut in half. The USPS plans to schedule community meetings with each affected location over the next few months to discuss the different options.

“These would be something where the entire community is welcomed to attend,” said Pete Nowacki, a regional spokesman for the USPS based in Minneapolis.

In Mower County, post offices in Brownsdale, Dexter, Lansing, Lyle, Racine, Rose Creek and Waltham are included in the plan. These locations would all see hours cut down from eight hours down to four, with the exception of Waltham, which would cut from six hours down to two.

There are no plans to make any changes in operations before Labor Day this year, Nowacki said.

While reducing retails hours is the Postal Service’s main plan at the moment, it also highlighted a few other options. These included merging nearby post offices with one another, starting a “Village Post Office” in an existing establishment in the community and changing delivery methods to use rural carriers or highway contract routes.

“Those are options that we would consider,” Nowacki said. He said in some cases it might be best to keep reduced hours at a post office, but supplement that with postal services offered through an already-established retail location, making a “Village Post Office.”

“We would partner with a convenience store or another business in town,” Nowacki explained.

Many of the locations being considered for reduced hours, he added, have one employee: the postmaster. Some have a “relief” person, to step in here and there so postmasters can have time off or vary their schedules.

The post office in Waltham was originally one of the post offices the USPS considered closing. Currently, Nowacki said, the USPS is not planning on shutting down rural post offices anywhere.

“We’re not looking at closures,” he said.

Postmasters from each of the seven post offices affected in Mower County said they were unable to speak about the proposed change in hours at this point. Several mentioned the USPS had yet to pass details along to their offices.

An overview of the plan from the Post Office described how cities and towns have expanded outward over the years and the population has re-established in more urban and suburban settings. That shift in population contributed to the current problem.

“The Post Offices remained in place, resulting in a network of retail offices located in areas where few people live, work or shop,” the USPS wrote in an overview statement.

Before the USPS makes any changes, it will run the plan by the U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission, an independent agency, for review. The USPS will ask for an advisory opinion from the PRC later this month before moving on to community meetings.

Apart from its online products and services, the USPS has more than 31,000 post offices and more than 70,000 alternate access locations. According to a news release, nearly 40 percent of postal retail revenue comes from purchases on usps.com and through approved postal providers such as Walmart, Staples, Office Depot, Walgreens, Sam’s Club, Costco, and many others.

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