Forty-four rural post offices in the state of Wyoming are on the United States Postal Service’s growing list for possible closure. The Deaver post office was recently added to that list. An official meeting was held on Oct. 20 to discuss its fate. Around 60 residents attended to learn about the few avenues available to them to fight the closure, and to hear about the more likely alternatives should a decision be made to close the post office in their town.
Manager of Post Office Operations Gary Sims spoke to the group of concerned citizens on behalf of USPS. Sims is responsible for overseeing the study that is looking at the Wyoming closures.
He started off by saying, “If you do nothing, if you don’t voice your opinion, if you don’t fill out the surveys, if you don’t ask for the appeal if they decide to close it, you will lose your post office.”
It’s not a “done deal,” he said, but if the proposed closure for Deaver were to occur it would happen in March of 2012.
He explained that, like most government agencies, the postal service is in “dire straits.” According to Sims, the postal service lost $8 billion last year and is losing literally $300 per second, seven days a week.
“This is why management in Washington is considering closing small rural post offices,” explained Sims. “When the first mandate came out about four months ago, they said they were considering closing only six offices in Wyoming. Now they are looking at closing 44 in Wyoming alone and 3,800 nationwide.”
He explained that although the Deaver post office has a full-time career postmaster, there are only a few hours of work to fill his day. Also, the annual revenue for the Deaver post office is $22,157, which is slightly less than the $27,000 in sales required to keep the office off the closure list.
Residents expressed their concern about how the service would work if the post office did close. Sims responded that there were about three good options, but none of them would be staffed with a postal employee. One option would be for a local business to assume the responsibility; the other would be for the town to take over the function. Either alternative would provide reduced services. Another option is to use the existing building, which already has boxes in it, but with no counter services. He also discussed the possibility of a cluster of outdoor boxes, where a carrier from another post office would deposit mail.
One citizen asked if the community could ever get the post office back once it is lost.
Sims answered, “In my opinion, once it is lost, the community won’t get it back.”
Sims distributed a survey at the meeting and encouraged residents to not only check off the multiple choice boxes, but also to write in comments on the form.
“This is your last chance to be heard,” he said. “If you don’t speak now you will lose your post office for sure.”
Currently 82 boxes are serviced at the postal facility in Deaver. Only the residents who receive their mail in those boxes would be affected by a closure decision. The delivery service will not change for residents who are already receiving their mail on a rural delivery route. All residents would lose the ability to purchase postage and other items at a central location in town.
The purpose of the meeting was to gather information in the form of surveys that will be passed on to a postal commission review committee. According to Sims, that decision whether or not to close the Deaver post office could come down within three weeks.
The decision will be formally posted at the Deaver and Lovell post offices. If the decision is to close the facility, residents will have 60 days to appeal the decision by sending their individual comments to the postal commission. The address for the postal commission will be listed on the notice.
After those comments are reviewed, a final decision will be handed down. If that final decision is to close the Deaver post office, closure is expected to occur on March 15, 2012.
The Byron post office is also under consideration for closure. The town held its initial closure meeting a few months ago and appeals are currently under review by the postal commission. According to Sims, residents of that community should be hearing the decision regarding the closure of their post office soon.
Sims predicted that, if a post office like the one in Byron with close to 200 boxes is shut down, a domino effect would occur where other rural post offices throughout Wyoming would close in rapid succession.
By Patti Carpenter