Meetings across the country, state and Hi-Line are continuing until the end of the month, but after Wednesday night’s meeting at the Inverness Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Hill County is done with its meetings on potential post office closings.
The meeting near the Liberty County border brought together 50 concerned residents with the representatives of Montana’s congressmen and Hill County Commissioner Mike Wendland. Recently appointed state Sen. Craig Tilleman, R-Havre, made his debut at one of these meetings.
Like at last week’s meetings in Hingham and Kremlin, people told Havre Postmaster Randal Schwartz, who conducted the meetings, what they’re most concerned about with the possible change and proposed preferable alternatives.
“You’ve probably seen here, you’ve probably seen all over, this will devastate us, ” one Inverness resident said.
Some suggested, like state Rep. Kris Hansen, R-Havre, did in Kremlin, that the post office needs to re-examine its relationship with the postal worker’s union.
Others recommended the repeal of the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act that ordered the postal service to pay more than $5 billion into funding retiree benefits. That amount has since been discovered to have been too much and the postal service is trying to get some of that surplus back.
One difference between Inverness’ meeting and the others was a stronger focus on how the cities will be affected.
“Most of the online bill paying (one of the reasons Schwartz provided for the post office’s financial problems) is in the urban areas, but the cuts are more in the rural areas, ” an attendee said.
Another argument presented later showed resentment of how revenue was only counted by what ships out of a place. Many said that, being residents of remote rural areas, they do a lot of shopping online where people in a city can just go to a store. But when that ships it only counts as revenue for the major city’s post office that took the product in.
“The cities are getting all the credit and revenue when we order from them, ” one of these participants said.
Former Chester Postmaster Connie Anderson is now a Joplin resident and had some problems with the information packets being sent out. One figure she was skeptical of claimed that shutting down the Inverness post office would save more than $460,000 over 10 years. She does not know how they came up with those numbers and, from her experience, doubts their accuracy.
She said before the meeting that she felt, looking at these documents, that the post office has already made up its mind and that these meetings are a formality.
The congressional staffers assured the group that this was not the case, and that it is vitally important that they share their thoughts, stories and solutions, distributing sample letters, press releases and providing the addresses to send their information.
Contact Montana's federal representatives:
Rep. Denny Rehberg:
Mail Call Montana Initiative
1201 Grand Avenue, Suite #1
Billings, MT 59102
Sen. Max Baucus:
Senator Max Baucus
122 West Towne Street
Glendive, MT 59330
Sen. Jon Tester:
Senator Jon Tester
14 3rd Street East, Suite 230
Kalispell, MT 59901