LS post office hours cut

Thomas Allen of USPS talks to Paul and Becky Eck of Neil Mahr Trucking after the meeting.

By Marcie Klomp

Starting the first of the year, the Lime Springs post office hours will be cut from eight down to four per day. The hours will likely be from 8:00 a.m. until noon. That is what Thomas Allen, Manager of Post Office Operations, informed a group of 30 concerned residents at a meeting on Oct. 17.

Survey letters were sent out to 604 locals with 191 of them returned a month ago asking residents what type of service they would prefer. Allen said the 91 percent (173) who asked for realignment of hours was the highest percent of answers he received thus far from affected communities. The other answers included delivery option (0), Village Post Office option (2), nearby post office option (3) and no selection made (13).

Allen admitted having meetings where hours were cut was better than the meetings he was having a year ago. “Last year I was going around and telling people I was going to shut their post office down.”

Because of the resulting public outcry, Congress took note. “We got their attention so now we won’t be discontinuing the offices, but realign the hours to fit with the workload,” he commented.

He went on to explain the post office is the only business in the United States that is required by law to pre-fund retirees benefits. Currently the postal service has paid in advance 70 years of benefits and legislatures have borrowed from that fund.

Some bills have been presented that will revise the pre-funding law and possibly cut out Saturday delivery, which Allen said would save $3 billion per year. Cutting Saturdays would require an act of Congress.

The postal service has come up with a POST Plan (Post Office STructure Plan) for those offices transitioning to reduced hours. Some changes would include:

• Giving box customers 24-hour access to their mail. Cresco and Riceville currently have 24-hour access. Between now and the first of the year, security audits will be performed in the offices affected.

Randy Assmus asked about the extra cost for making the building secure. Allen explained it would save money in the long run.

• Parcel lockers would be placed in the lobby. Individuals who receive a package will be given a key to get into the locker to pick up their mail.

Darlene Goetsch asked how secure the lockers would be. Allen said they would be as secure as possible.

• Chain of command will change for some offices. Allen said Cresco will oversee the Lime Springs office and one other. That would free him up from overseeing 84 facilities in northeast Iowa to being in charge of 35 offices.

Comments and questions were fielded from the crowd.

~ Diane Miner asked, “How will this affect the rural carriers?” She was told nothing would change, and the rural routes were staying in Lime Springs for now.

~ Sen. Merlin Bartz offered hope he learned from one of the three post office meetings he had attended the prior day. In his home town of Grafton, he learned the hours could be increased or reduced in another year after being reviewed. Allen confirmed it, but cautioned against hoping for increased hours. “The main thing is not letting the workload drop below four hours.”

Bartz continued, “The challenge is for us to ante up and do as much business as we can at our local post office.”

Looking at Allen, he asked, “If we buy stamps online, is that part of the business credited to the local post office?” Again the answer was yes. “You need to buy stamps here and mail packages from here.”

~ When talking about stamps, the group was told a person can purchase stamps online. The sale of the stamps will be credited to the ZIP code of the post office where the credit card bill is sent. The stamps will then be put in the mail to that address.

Another way to get stamps would be to put a check in the mail asking for stamps, and they would be delivered the next day.

Beverley Copeman praised the flat-rate box. “I buy my presents so they fit in that box.” Allen added anything could be mailed in the box from one pound up to 70 pounds for the low rate.

~ Sandy Heisler asked if the hours could be rotated to accommodate more people. “Like be open from 2:00-6:00 or 1:00-5:00?” She was told that opening later would affect the rural carriers.

~ Bartz volunteered local businesses could supplement the post office by having a Village Post Office in their business. There is information on the VPO available at the post office.

~ Clem Donlan asked, “How can you get into the post office with a wheelchair?” The question surprised Allen who said, “Shame on me for not paying attention.”

~ Mail dropped in the blue box outside the building would still be picked up nightly.

~ Locals were concerned about losing their local OIC (Officer In Charge) Dolly Hovey. Donna Ihns praised her for being so helpful. Others agreed.

There is a possibility that one person would work in the Lime Springs office for four hours and then go to Chester to work for two hours.

A meeting regarding the reduction of Chester’s hours from eight to two has not been scheduled.

Although those attending the meeting were not happy to see the hours reduced, they agreed when Allen said, “It beats the alternative.” At this time, closing is not an option which suits the community just fine.

 

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