10 area post offices on closure study listTen post offices in the Mitchell region are on the closure study list released Tuesday by the U.S. Postal Service. Post offices in Canova, Carthage, Dimock, Fulton, Gann Valley, Hamill, Herrick, Letcher, Olivet and Spencer are on the list.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
Ten post offices in the Mitchell region are on the closure study list released Tuesday by the U.S. Postal Service.
Post offices in Canova, Carthage, Dimock, Fulton, Gann Valley, Hamill, Herrick, Letcher, Olivet and Spencer are on the list. The Postal Service will study about 3,700 post offices and consider closing them or offering their services to a “village post office.” A village post office would be operated by local businesses such as pharmacies, grocery stores and other retail firms and provide most postal services, such as selling stamps and providing flat-rate mailing.
Karen Fredrickson, the Sioux Falls-based Postal Service marketing manager for the Dakotas District, which includes South and North Dakota, Montana and northwest Minnesota, said some post offices will be shuttered but she does not know which ones.
“I don’t have any idea at this point,” Fredrickson said. “It will be some. We have to start the process.”
The volume of business, proximity to other post offices and other issues will be considered, she said.
Spencer’s postal service was already affected a few years ago when the Postal Service moved Spencer’s drop site to Salem. The mail is then carried to Spencer, which is a town of 154 people.
Mayor Donna Ruden said that put a snag in the way businesses operate. Businesses and residents in Spencer don’t receive their mail until 11 a.m., though they used to receive it around 9 a.m. Also, Salem took over the Spencer rural route the same time it became the drop site for Spencer.
As for the closure of Spencer’s post office itself, “it would affect us big time,” Ruden said. Ruden had not heard of the proposed closing until Tuesday.
Fulton Mayor Kay Miller was also surprised by the proposed closing of her town’s post office. She declined comment, saying she had not been informed of the process. Fulton has a population of 91.
Closing the post office in Gann Valley, population 14, would really put Buffalo County’s courthouse operations in a bind, said Elaine Wulff, auditor and register of deeds.
“We do all our business with them,” she said. “For the courthouse, we get money orders, do all our mailings. It’d put us in a real bind.”
It would particularly hurt the county during election years and during the collection of taxes, she said.
“I’m just kind of hoping it’ll slide us by. It’s a major change and not one I’d be looking forward to,” she added.
Fredrickson said there are 262 post offices in the region in the closure study, including 80 in South Dakota. Community meetings will be held in every town where the post office is being considered for closure.
Pete Nowacki, Minneapolis-based spokesman for the Postal Service, said it’s too early to determine what South Dakota post offices will close.
“Can’t guess. We look at each one on an individual basis,” Nowacki said. “Certainly some will close but some will not.”
The Postal Service has been reviewing 1,400 offices this year that it may shut down. Of those, 280 have been closed and 200 will remain open. Another 620 offices are still in the review process and 300 will move to the new review list.
“The entire process will take several months,” Nowacki said. “I would be surprised if we see anything final before December.”
Once a decision is announced, the post offices will remain open for a time, he said. They can’t close within 60 days of a final decision.
There is an appeal process, with any customer of a post office having the ability to ask for an appeal of a closure decision with the Postal Regulatory Commission, which oversees the Postal Service, within 30 days after the closure decision is announced.
Postal workers who lose their jobs may be offered other jobs within the organization, Nowacki said.
“Our plan is to do everything we can to find a place for those people to work if they want to remain with us,” he said.
Few postal workers at area post offices were willing to comment Tuesday, and Nowacki said he understands their reticence.
“They’re a little bit afraid of what they might say,” he said.
Elizabeth Soladay, officer in charge at the Fulton Post Office, said she was not allowed to speak on the issue and referred The Daily Republic to Nowacki. Spencer Postmaster Tammy Mentele did the same.
But Nowacki said postal workers had to be aware that changes, and closures, were coming. They were told about their post office being on the list either Monday or Tuesday morning, he said.
“It’s not like there hasn’t been a lot of information out there, and we have had our struggles,” he said. “Change is a constant part of our lives in the Postal Service now.”
One of the post offices on the list, the Olivet Post Office, is open 36 hours a week, according to its postmaster, Mary Schoenfish. She is the sole full-time employee, but a replacement postmaster fills in when she is on vacation or takes time off, Schoenfish said. Olivet has 74 residents.
She joined the Postal Service in 1989 and has been the postmaster at Olivet for a decade.
Herrick Postmaster Berniece Bauld, who has been a postmaster for 16 years and with the Postal Service for 24 years, said the Herrick Post Office has two full-time employees, including herself, and two part-time employees.
It’s open eight hours a day Monday through Friday and for an hour and 45 minutes on Saturday mornings, Bauld said. Herrick has 105 residents.