Postal Service recommends closing Parshall office | SkyHiNews.com

Postal Service recommends closing Parshall office

Tonya Bina
tbina@skyhidailynews.com
Grand County, CO Colorado

Karen Bloomfield picks up her mail from the Parshall Post Office on Wednesday. Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi News

PARSHALL – The Parshall Post Office is one of 71 post offices in Colorado – and the only one in Grand County – targeted for closure.

A three-month-long public comment period that included customer surveys and meetings wrapped up at the end of November, and postal officials are now reviewing comments about all 3,600 U.S. post offices eyed to be discontinued across the U.S.

The Parshall Post Office services 74 post-office boxes and 52 delivery-route customers. The U.S. Postal Service cites a declining workload and declining revenue as reasons for the proposed office closure.

If the building is closed, which could occur as early as spring, those 74 post-office boxes would be replaced with several units of boxes located outside at a centralized location, preferably near the former post office, said David Rupert, Postal Service spokesperson in Denver.

People would still be able to collect their mail at those units, he said, and would maintain the Parshall address and zip code. The 52 delivery-route customers in the Parshall area would still have their mail delivered, he said.

The U.S. Postal Service expects to save close to $600,000 during a 10-year period by shutting down the Parshall Post-Office building, according to the U.S. Postal Service’s proposal. Savings are reflected in rent and labor during that time.

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Delivery to the 74 exterior postal boxes would cost an estimated $8,000 per year and would be added onto the existing highway delivery contract through the Kremmling Post Office.

The proposal also states efforts would be made to relocate the current postmaster at the Parshall site to another post office.

For full services such as postage-stamp purchases, delivery of boxes, and passports, customers would have to drive to the Hot Sulphur Springs Post Office, about 5 miles away.

But folks such as Bill Dickson of Parshall worry about the elderly driving through Byers Canyon in the wintertime for postal services, Dickson said while collecting his mail last week at the Parshall Post Office.

What has been done in other locations, according to Rupert, is establishing a “Village Post Office” inside another business, which takes a business owner willing to sell postal stamps and pre-stamped flat-rate envelopes at his or her place of business.

To date, the Postal Service has about 71,000 locations and climbing operated by retail partners that provide postal products and services.

Still, purchasing stamps accounts for about half of the transactions at a typical U.S. post office.

Cost reductions

The closure of post offices is part of a grand scheme of cost-cutting measures the U.S. Postal Service hopes to implement to stop bleeding about $24 million per day in red ink, with roughly 25,000 out of 32,000 post offices operating at a loss.

The growth of electronic communications, such as online bill-paying, “e-vites,” and email all continue to add to the “migration away from traditional First-Class Mail,” said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe before a U.S. Senate committee in September.

Postal Service reform bills have been introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate, but Donahoe advocates for a combination of the bills for true reform.

Donahoe argues for providing the Postal Service with greater flexibility in doing business, such as its ability to determine delivery frequency, the ability to develop and change price products quickly, to put controls on health care and retirement costs, and leverage its workforce with greater flexibility.

“Unfortunately, while we have a mandate to operate like a business, the reality is that we do not have the flexibility under current law to function as a business,” Donahoe said in a National Press Club address in late November.

Instead, the Postal Service has “insurmountable constraints” set by law, such as a cumbersome process that makes it difficult to price products when the competition can do so on a moment’s notice, or the obligation the Postal Service has to pre-fund retiree health benefits.

“The practical result is that the Postal Service has had to borrow from the Treasury to make $5.5 billion annual payments into this fund – effectively bankrupting us,” Donahoe said.

The U.S. Postal Service must compete for customers based on the fact it is not supported through taxpayer dollars. All revenues are generated from the sales of postage, products and services.

The U.S. Postal Service is the only delivery service that reaches every address in the nation, of about 150 million residences, business and Post Office boxes. According to the Postal Service, if it were a private sector company, it would have ranked 29th in the 2010 Fortune 500.

“We’re not looking for a bailout,” Rupert said. “We need the ability to run our operations and haven’t been given that.”

But postal officials recognize the emotion attached to taking away a neighborhood post office, which speaks to the established branding of an American institution. “People are very closely affiliated with their post office; it’s what their town is,” Rupert said.

“But it’s not about saving the local post office,” he added. “It’s about saving the Postal Service.”

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603

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