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Fate of post office closings on hold

The U.S. Postal Service began during summer 2011 the process of deciding which post offices it would close in an effort to eliminate a big deficit in its budget. <i>Journal file photo</i>

Last month, Congress stepped in and now the future of post offices being considered for closing, including Beldenville's, won't be known until May.

The United States Postal Service (USPS), in response to a request made by multiple U.S. Senators, agreed to delay the closing or consolidation of any post office or mail processing facility until May 15, according to information provided to the newspaper by Belinda Hopp, Postmaster Relief at the Beldenville Post Office.

The Postal Service will continue all necessary steps required for the review of these facilities during the interim period, including public input meetings, the information states.

USPS hopes this period will help facilitate the enactment of comprehensive postal legislation. Given the Postal Service's financial situation and the loss of mail volume, the Postal Service must continue to take all steps necessary to reduce costs and increase revenue.

Meantime, the Postal Regulatory Commission has recommended the U.S. Postal Service take another look at its approach to closing post offices, supporting many criticisms made by the National Newspaper Association in its fall 2011 testimony, another article shared by Hopp says.

She especially directed attention to the following portion of this article.

Among the problems were:

  • "USPS decision to count only front-counter stamp and package sales as incoming revenue when deciding whether an office is unprofitable, while ignoring the bulk business-mail revenue essentially coming through that office from newspaper, shopper and direct-mail business.
    • "Inadequate development of plans to allow newspaper mail to be entered at alternative facilities being developed as post offices closed, such as the much publicized 'Village Post Offices' intended to replace some post offices in rural areas.
      • "Poor transparency in conducting community meetings before a closing."

        Commenting on the Beldenville situation, Hopp lamented the lack of importance placed on the profitability of an individual office like Beldenville outside of stamp sales.

      This office is extraordinarily profitable because of the local business it serves, namely Helmer Printing, she said.

      This significant amount of revenue was ignored, and was stated as such by USPS representatives during the community meeting back in September.

      Many Beldenville customers, including the Helmer Printing staff, were shocked at this revelation and considered the USPS response less than satisfactory, and some went as far as to question how the USPS method of accounting could ignore significant levels of income in an official review, she said.

      Additionally, the regulatory commission article indicates 3,750 post offices had been on the list for closure, but USPS has said it intended to close more after the current round ends.

      Intervention by Congress as well as the commission's recommendations may affect those plans.

      The 2012 federal spending bill passed by Congress in December contains a rider prohibiting the closing of small and rural post offices.

      Consideration for closing the 153-year-old Beldenville Post Office was originally announced late last July.

Bill Kirk

Bill Kirk was editor of the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth, from 1988 to February, 2015 and is now on staff as a reporter. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He previously worked in the media distribution department at the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus and is past editor of The Tri-County News in Osseo, Wisconsin.

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