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May 15, 2012 8:11 am

EDITORIAL: A welcome reprieve for rural post offices

Written by Tessa Schweigert

Solutions still needed for nearly bankrupt U.S. Postal Service

Emblem, Byron, Deaver and Hyattville residents last week got the news they had hoped for: Their post offices will remain open.
Last week, the U.S. Postal Service backed off its plan to close 3,700 post offices across America, including more than three dozen in Wyoming.

Rural residents depend on their post offices. It connects them to those outside Wyoming in ways the Internet cannot — in handwritten cards, needed medications or holiday packages. For a rural community, a post office is a landmark symbolizing a town’s existence.
Without it, some rural towns would struggle to survive, and residents would be forced to drive long distances just to get their mail. Consider the small community of Bairoil, part of Sweetwater County, where residents would have to drive about 45 miles to Rawlins for service if their post office had closed.
“We’ve listened to our customers in rural America, and we’ve heard them loud and clear — they want to keep their post office open,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said last week.
Under a new plan to be completed by September 2014, post office hours may be scaled back, or rural communities could create a Village Post Office, set up in a library, government office or local store. Those measures could save $500 million a year by reducing full-time staff, according to The Associated Press.
While rural residents rejoice, the U.S. Postal Service’s staggering financial problems are far from fixed.
Rather, the Postal Service is drowning in red ink. On the heels of Wednesday’s rural post office decision, the Postal Service on Thursday reported a quarterly loss of $3.2 billion, according to The Associated Press.
Action must be taken to stop this financial hemorrhage.
What that looks like depends on Congress.
The Postal Service is seeking to eliminate Saturday delivery, which makes sense. Also before Congress are far-reaching cuts. Lawmakers must act soon on reform legislation that would allow the Postal Service to reduce costs and save money.
Part of the solution should be consolidating services in more densely populated urban areas, as Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., suggested.
“The smallest 10,000 post offices collectively cost USPS less than $600 million to operate each year. That is less than one-eighth of the $5 billion USPS spends each year to operate its network of 32,000 post offices,” he said. “To achieve real savings creating long-term solvency, the Postal Service needs to focus on consolidation in more-populated areas where the greatest opportunities for cost reduction exist.”
Budget cuts are never easy and often painful. But Congress and the Postal Service must find ways to make the service financially solvent if it is to continue as an independent agency of government rather than a private business.
Over the weekend, we were reminded again of the valuable services postal employees provide in local communities. In addition to dropping off mail, carriers collected food for the local Powell Valley Loaves and Fishes as part of the National Association of Letter Carriers’ annual food drive.
Post offices play a vital role in American communities, and we hope financial solutions are found soon so they can survive.

 

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