Fresh off the closing of the Big Sky Postal District and the decision to consolidate mail processing for Havre, Helena and Butte in Great Falls, the U. S. Postal Service unveiled Tuesday a list of 3,653 post offices across the country they will look at closing, including of a number close to home, and have worried some.
The Expanded Access Study List shows all of the states and their offices that would be affected. The 85 post offices to be considered for closing in Montana include those in Hingham, Hogeland, Inverness, Joplin, Kremlin, Loma and Zurich.
According to a release from the Postal Service, they are looking at possibly closing more than 10 percent of their 32,000 offices since recent usage trends have shown that people don’t rely as much on post offices and favor shipping through third party vendors.
“Today, more than 35 percent of the Postal Service’s retail revenue comes from expanded access locations such as grocery stores, drug stores, office supply stores, retail chains, self-service kiosks, ATMs and usps.com, open 24/7, ” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in the release. “Our customer’s habits have made it clear that they no longer require a physical post office to conduct most of their postal business. ”
A few hours after the announcement of the list, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., issued his own press release, a letter to the postmaster general expressing his concerns about the plan.
“The Montana post offices that are being studied for closure are anchor institutions for rural communities, ” Baucus said in his letter. “They give families in those towns opportunities to stay in touch with loved ones, receive time-sensitive prescription medication, and operate family businesses. And many Montanans go to work every day in those post offices. Closing those post offices will make it more difficult for Montanans to access services they rely on and cut jobs our communities cannot afford to lose.
“While I understand that the current financial outlook of the Postal Service is dire, it is imperative that the changes which must be made to sustain the service do not disproportionately impact rural communities. I strongly urge the Postal Service to consider this impact and keep Montana’s rural post offices open. ”
Similar to Baucus’ statement, Ray Lipp, mayor of Hingham, said this morning that he wasn’t sure how the possible closing would affect the town, but he understands why the changes are being considered.
“They’ve got to make some tough decisions because they’ve got some problems, ” Lipp said.
He said he recognized that it could have affects on residents and particularly businesses that rely on the regular incoming and outgoing mail, to have to drive out of town to another office, but “it’s overdone to have a post office in every little town as well. It’s a tough one, but may be a rational logical business decision. ”
According to Peter Nowacki, a public information officer for the Postal Service, the postmaster general has estimated that, if every one of these post offices closed, the Postal Service could save around $200 million.
The release of the list is only the first step in the consideration process that will, over the next few months, include requests for public comment and scheduling public hearings, as everyone tries to figure out just what the changes would mean.