FAIRMONT - Concerns about smalltown post offices that have arisen in the past few years are being addressed, and some of the worst-case scenarios have been avoided, according to a Postal Service official.
In 2011, a list was released of about 3,600 rural post offices slated for closure. Locally, the post offices included Granada, Alpha, Ormsby and Ledyard, Iowa.
Since then, three of four have reduced their hours, but there have been no closures.
"In May 2012, we announced Post Plan, a program that kept small post offices open while adjusting the number of hours the retail window is open on weekdays to better reflect actual customer traffic," explained Peter Nowacki, a?Minneapolis-based representative for the Postal Service. "Beginning last fall and continuing until the fall of 2014, about 13,000 of the smallest post offices nationwide are being evaluated to determine the new number of window hours. Based on size, these offices will change to two, four or six hours of window service each day. Access to P.O. boxes, delivery schedules and Saturday window hours do not change."
Nowacki added that when Post Plan is fully implemented, it should save the Postal Service about $500 million per year.
"We have completed the process at about 60 percent of the Post Plan offices to date, with the remainder to be completed in the next year," he said.
Post offices in Granada, Ormsby and Ledyard all became four-hour offices earlier this year. Alpha will become one by the fall of 2014.
"The process works like this," Nowacki explained. "We begin by sending a survey to every customer of a particular post office, asking for their opinion on how we can best continue to provide service in their community and present four options. Unless there is a strong preference for one of the alternatives - 60 percent of respondents - the office will remain open with reduced hours. When all the surveys are complete, we hold a community meeting to discuss the upcoming changes and take feedback and suggestions."
Following the meeting, a final decision is posted at the post office, with implementation taking place about a month later. The entire process takes about three to four months.
"Generally, we've had a pretty positive reaction," Nowacki said. "One of the suggestions that came up at the meetings for closings was if there was a way it could be open for just a few hours. They realize they need to change their schedules and it's not perfect for them, but they understand why we're doing it; that we're trying to save as much money as possible and they are happy to be able to keep their post office open."