Senators seek to postpone rural post office closings |

Senators seek to postpone rural post office closings

Tonya Bina
Grand County, CO Colorado

Colorado’s U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall are proposing ways to protect rural Colorado post offices from being closed.

The Parshall Post Office is one of 71 Colorado post offices and four mail processing facilities targeted for closure. In all, the U.S. Postal Service plans to close or consolidate more than 3,600 rural post offices across the country.

“While I understand the need to make the U.S. Postal Service leaner in the 21st century, I do not believe that rural Coloradans should have their access to vital postal and other services limited as a result of decisions made by bureaucrats in Washington,” Udall said in statements released on Wednesday.

Udall co-sponsored an amendment this week that would protect rural post-office closures for two years while the Postal Service looks into other cost-saving measures. The amendment is to the postal reform bill known as the 21st Century Postal Service Act, which aims to address the immediate financial strain and long-term solvency of the U.S. Postal Service.

Among reforms in the Act is $7 billion refunded as overpayment in future retiree health benefits and retirement incentive buyouts and a reform of workers compensation benefits. The Act, Senate Bill 1789, would allow six-day delivery in America’s post offices for two years while the U.S. postal Service continues to cut costs and find solutions to those who would be disproportionately affected by losing the sixth day.

It would also authorize the Service to streamline its delivery, such as mail to curbside, sidewalk or centralized mail centers rather than door delivery. Another part of the bill would allow the U.S. Postal Service to ship beer and wine, changing a law leftover from Prohibition.

The amendment Udall supports would put a two-year moratorium on any post-office closures. And, according to the amendment, the U.S. Postal Service would have to consider the following conditions before a closure: that businesses in the community will not suffer economic loss resulting from a post-office closure; the area served by a post office threatened to be closed has adequate access to wired broadband and internet service; the next nearest post office is within 10 miles driving distance; and those who rely on prescription medication sent through the mail would receive similar service even after a post office closes.

On a parallel path, Sen. Bennet announced on Wednesday his and Sen. Roy Blunt’s (R-Mo) amendment to the reform bill to arm with an advocate rural communities facing post-office closure.

“This amendment would give communities the representation and respect they deserve throughout these proceedings to ensure the Postal Service remains accountable and accessible throughout the process,” Bennet said in statements.

The amendment would allow for an appointment of a non-paid advocate to represent communities facing a post office closure. The advocate would have the authority to appeal a final decision on closure if there is concern the closure would hurt service standards. Under currant law, the U.S. Postal Service is only required to hold one community meeting during a 120-day period.

Both Bennet and Udall have been seeking protections of post offices in rural Colorado since the U.S. Postal Service announced its plans for closures in July 2011. In December, the Colorado senators along with other senators successfully pushed for a moratorium on the closing of facilities to give Congress time to address the U.S. Postal Service’s financial problems.

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

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