Marcela Juarez Rivera handed a home-printed business card to a patron at Tuesday’s meeting regarding the future of the Byron Post Office.
“Budget cuts,” she said. “We’re doing everything we can.”
Rivera’s card states she is the Post Office Review Coordinator for the Colorado/Wyoming District. Before taking questions and comments from Byron residents, Rivera explained the grim financial situation facing the U.S. Postal Service.
“With the wave of electronic media we’ve encountered in the last decade, our our first class mail volume has decreased,” she said, noting that the USPS experienced an $8.5 billion deficit for the 2010 fiscal year and 2011 doesn’t look much better, with estimates of a $6.5 billion deficit this FY. “The postal service is having to respond and make some dramatic changes.”
She said the USPS has eliminated positions at every level, adjusted carrier rates, frozen executive spending accounts and cut expenses in all areas to try to correct the problem. Looking at post offices across the country for possible closure or reorganization is another cost-saving measure the USPS is taking.
Rivera said the USPS is going through the review process in Byron and in a few other Wyoming communities. Post offices under review were selected based on one or more of the following: declining volume, vacancy of a career postmaster, substandard building condition or declining revenue.
After the Byron office was selected for the review process, Rivera said Byron residents were sent a questionnaire to fill out and return to give feedback. She said there were a large number of written comments received and more people attended the Byron meeting Tuesday (nearly 200) than the other eight or so meetings held recently.
Rivera said the majority of cost savings that could come from shutting down the Byron Post Office would be in savings to the cost of the building and a decrease in salary expenses. Currently, Byron’s postmaster also works as a clerk in Cody. Contracting with a Byron business to provide postal services would allow the current postmaster to be used elsewhere within the organization.
After the meeting, USPS officials will compile the public comments and submit a report to USPS national headquarters in Washington, D.C. A proposal drafted in Washington will then be posted at the Byron Post Office and at town hall for 60 days, which will give residents a chance to make sure their comments were properly incorporated and the proposal is factually correct. After 60 days, the USPS will make a final determination, which will be posted for 30 days.
Residents have the option to appeal the decision within the 30 days and if a decision is approved after the 30-day waiting period, residents have a chance to appeal the decision to the Postal Regulatory Commission, which would extend the process by 120 days.
Gary Sims, Manager of Post Office Operations for Area 5 Wyoming, told the crowd that if the proposal goes to USPS headquarters without showing a substantial savings, the Byron office would not be closed.
The USPS could decide to re-organize the post office, possibly contracting with an existing business to provide most postal services. Delivery could be re-structured to either a contracted rural route, cluster boxes or be left at a location for pickup.
Tom Langston Sr. said many people in Byron like to “do it the old-fashioned way” and send letters and packages via USPS, but he thought limiting services in town could push more residents to use a competing carrier or e-mail for communications.
“I’m wondering how many people will be pushed away by the postal service,” he said.
He went on to say that the post office plays a vital role in the town of Byron, as a meeting spot and a place to exchange information.
“It’s not just a post office, it’s an important part of our community,” he said.
Karma Sanders questioned the cost savings of closing or reorganizing the post office, and pointed out that a contract employee would be paid less than a USPS employee and would receive no benefits or pension.
Other residents were concerned about “just anyone” being hired to sort their mail for slightly more than minimum wage.
A few residents spoke up about how residents are trying to stimulate the local economy, but losing the post office is a step in the wrong direction for new businesses.
At the close of the meeting, the USPS officials thanked those in attendance for their input and encouraged residents to stay informed throughout the review process and appeal the plan if they choose to.
By Brad Devereaux