A week after Hill County saw the last of its meetings about post office closings, neighboring Liberty County wrapped up theirs with a Tuesday night meeting at the Community Hall in Joplin.
Like the other meetings happening in the area over the past month in Kremlin, Hingham and Inverness, Tuesday’s started with Havre Postmaster Randal Schwartz explaining why the change is being considered, including the loss of billions of dollars in revenue and congressional regulations on the system originally meant to help postal employees and preventing a shipping monopoly, which apparently succeeded.
Schwartz said that the fear of being unable to compete brought out UPS lobbyists in the creation of the separate U. S. Postal Service corporation in the 1970s, an influence that, with additional FedEx lobbying, has continued to this day.
“UPS and FedEx have a lot of lobbyists, ” Schwartz said. “They probably know more about the Postal Service than the Postal Service does. ”
The frustrated crowd assembled in the hall had a number of concerns to voice, including the lack of understanding from the urban east of the rural west, the problem being created by trivial political concerns and the thrust of responsibility onto the county governments particularly in winter.
The counties would be responsible for keeping the new cluster box mail sites clear of the inevitably massive snow drifts that will develop during the winter.
One attendee asked Liberty County commissioners if or how they could handle that responsibility, when they operate four days a week and the mail comes six days a week.
The commissioners had no answer.
The predominate voice in the meeting became that of Connie Anderson, who was the postmaster in Chester until she retired three years ago.
Anderson, a Joplin resident, spoke out from her own experience and research as she did in Inverness last week, saying that she doubted the accuracy of the savings the USPS claims they could achieve with these closures.
“I believe these studies are deceptive and misleading, ” Anderson said. “They don’t give you an accurate picture of our rural post offices. ”
She said small town postmasters do much more than just sort the mail. They wear many hats that would disappear if the main one were taken away.
“They are making too many cuts, ” Anderson said. “They are destroying the post office. ”
She also lamented the fission of the Joplin-Inverness community that has developed between the city over the county border once Joplin goes to Chester and Inverness relies on Rudyard.
The postmasters and congressional field representatives told the crowd that all hope is not lost and that they had already heard of several post offices across the country that had been taken off the proposed closure list, including at least one in Montana, though the Havre Daily News could not find verification of this claim as of this morning.
Robert Moog, a farmer from Joplin, had the last word at the meeting, reiterating what the congressional staffers have been saying at every meeting they’ve attended.
“Please don’t be complacent because if we’re complacent we’re just saying to these people, ‘just close it., ” Moog told the crowd.
Thoughts on the post office closure or stories about the importance of post offices to rural Montana communities should be sent to:
Mail Call Montana Initiative
1201 Grand Ave., Suite #1
Billings, MT 59102
Sen. Max Baucus
122 West Towne St.
Glendive, MT 59330
Sen. Jon Tester
14 3rd St. E., Suite 230
Kalispell, MT 59901