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Area post offices anticipate cutbacks

Reduced hours to begin at some locations next year

Delivering sleigh-loads of packages over the holidays is akin to a Christmas bonus for the U.S. Postal Service, but small post offices around the Big Horn Basin and the state are getting their hours cut next year nonetheless.

The good news is, no post offices will be closed across the country and across Wyoming as was announced in May. The bad news is, post offices across the country and across Wyoming will see reduced hours to save the service money.

There are 134 post offices in Wyoming and 60 of those would have their hours reduced.

Post offices with reduced hours in the Basin include Burlington, Byron, Cowley, Deaver, Emblem, Frannie, Hyattville, Manderson, Otto, Ralston and Wapiti, according to the service’s preliminary plan. 

The Byron post office will be reduced from eight hours to four hours per day beginning Jan. 26. Frannie and Ralston post offices will be down to four hours per day each beginning Feb. 9.

The reduced weekday hours will not affect Saturdays. “In some instances Saturdays will be open longer,” said David Rupert, U.S. Postal Service spokesman in Denver.

Meetings were held at Byron, Frannie and Ralston to get local feedback to assist the service in making its final decision, Rupert said.

People weren’t pleased with fewer hours, but preferred that to total closure. “You still want that flag flying,” Rupert said. “You still want a post office in your community.”

It will be easier for Byron residents to conduct their post office business in Byron rather than driving to another community. Donna Booth, deputy clerk at the town of Byron, said she believes locals will adjust to the reduced hours.

“We’re just thankful they’re not closing,” she said.

A meeting will take place at 5 p.m. Jan. 8 at Cowley Town Hall to discuss its reduction from eight business hours to six.

Three of the state postal processing centers have been closed to cut costs. The centers in Casper and Cheyenne remain open, Rupert said.

About 13,000 post offices across the country are on the reduced-hours list. Postmasters who qualified were offered early retirement. “Several thousand took us up on it,” Rupert said.

Once all the post offices listed have their hours cut, with postmasters retiring early and the resulting utilities cost reduction, the service should start saving $500 million annually by 2014, Rupert said.

The post office is losing billions of dollars in postage largely because bills, once sent by utilities or other entities, and the payment returned by consumers, are now billed and paid electronically.

“That’s what is hurting us more than anything,” Rupert said. 

Still, the service is estimating it will deliver 365 million packages during the holidays. With 240 years delivering Christmas cards and letters, “We’re ready for it,” Rupert said.

“This is really the bread-and-butter season for us,” Rupert added.

Postal workers enjoy delivering holiday cards and packages, Rupert said. Parents are pleased to receive a package from a son or daughter who they feared may have forgotten them, or a precious letter may arrive from a loved one deployed overseas.

“It’s happy mail,” Rupert said.

Powell Postmaster Wendy Trautman does not know if fewer hours at post offices elsewhere will affect business at the Powell post office, but she encourages folks to use the post office.

“If you are living in a small town, it certainly helps to shop local and use your post office,” Rupert said. “We found another solution instead of closing post offices, and it was something a lot of people suggested.”

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