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U.S. Postal Service Manager Eunice Roozenboom tells Tabor residents Wednesday about plans to cut post office hours to four hours a day starting Jan. 12. (Ross Dolan/Republic)

USPS proposes cuts to area post office hours

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news Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

TABOR -- Tabor residents learned Wednesday about U.S. Postal Service plans to cut daily service hours in half starting Jan. 12.

Many area post offices are facing similar reductions in service times. The U.S. Postal Service will hold a public meeting at each of the 13,000 rural post offices where it plans to reduce operating hours.

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Using information gleaned from customer surveys, the Postal Service representative, Eunice Roozenboom, told the 25 postal patrons who lined the tiny lobby and hallway at the Tabor post office that four hours a day will be cut from their post office's current schedule. Under the plan presented Tabor's hours will be from 8 a.m. to noon.

There was mild grumbling among the patrons about the hours but most were pleased they still had a post office.

Similar meetings were held this week in Alpena, Letcher and Olivet. A meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. today in Ideal.

The cuts are being made because of dwindling Postal Service revenues as the country increasingly embraces email and other delivery options.

"More than 40 billion mail transactions are gone and they're not coming back," read Roozenboom from a prepared statement. Under the USPS's Postplan program, the hours at many post office will be reduced to two, four and six hours daily to save money.

Roozenboom said the plan is "designed to give communities the opportunity to preserve post offices with realigned hours."

Postplan is a cost-cutting measure designed to balance both customer and operational needs.

It is an alternative to closing the post office, Roozenboom said.

"We want to work with you to do the best we can with what we've been given," she said.

State Rep. Frank Kloucek, D-Scotland, who attended the brief meeting, called the hourly reduction "another knife in the back of small-town South Dakota."

Tabor resident Trish Kostel said, "It's frustrating. We need businesses to keep our town going and downsizing could hurt our community." Kostel said elderly citizens, who are unable to go elsewhere, may not find the new hours convenient.

Bob Kortan said the morning hours are likely to be inconvenient for working people or farmers working in area fields.

One customer recommended split hours, with two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon. Roozenboom said that was not a possibility, but she assured customers that the hours could be changed to afternoons with a 30-day notice if the community chose that option at some future time.

But some saw the new plan as the best deal they could get, and better than losing their post office entirely.

Daryl Feilmeier, manager at the Tabor Coop Lumber Co. said, "It's going to create some changes. I don't like it, but we can adjust."

"Our major concern is getting out our billing on time," said M.J. Goehring, manager of the Bon Homme Yankton Electric Cooperative. "Our billing is usually done by 3 p.m. This change means we'll be delayed a day." It could take customers even longer to get their bills when business falls on a weekend or holiday, he said.

Roozenboom said the Postplan reduction program will hopefully be able to stagger hours so that the afternoon hours that Tabor will lose could be available in a nearby town.

Offering another alternative, Roozenboom said area businesses can also apply to be a Village Post Office. VPOs, working under a contract with the USPS, would be able to offer basic services such as the sale of stamps or the acceptance of flat rate packages.

There was mild grumbling among some patrons who felt their post office warranted more hours than it was given.

"I understand your concern but that was the decision of headquarters," Roozenboom said. She said the Tabor post office's work load did not warrant a two-hour bump to six hours a day.

The hours at the nearby Utica and Kaylor post offices will be cut to two hours a day. Lesterville's hours will be cut to four hours a day. Avon, Springfield, Menno and Scotland will have six-hour daily schedules.

Roozenboom said USPS officials will review comment from all area meetings and a final decision on operating hours will be given in about a week. She welcomed further patron input.

Roozenboom also urged patrons who use online USPS services to use their area ZIP code so the Tabor post office will get credit for that business.

Under Postplan, Tyndall will be the administrative center for several Bon Homme County post offices. It will handle time cards and oversee route assignments, and other details to be determined. Postal workers at the cutback post offices will handle only daily mail operations.

Sue Souhrada will be the sole employee at Tabor when the changes go into effect in January. Former postmaster Janice Loyd was promoted to the Elk Point post office.

Souhrada said she plans to stay.

"I've been here 15 years," she said. "I love my hometown and I love my job."

Kloucek vowed to take the fight for hours to the next level.

"We're not done yet," he said. "We'll make an effort on the national level to enact federal legislation that will make these changes unnecessary."

A bill that reduces the postal service's prepaid retiree benefit program has passed the Senate, he said, but it stalled in the House. Kloucek said Congress "needs to do its job" and pass the bill.

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