Post office closings
June 7, 2015
The Postal Regulatory Commission has denied the city of Norwich's appeal on the closure of the Yantic post office, backing the U.S. Postal Service’s February 2012 decision to close the Yantic post office. Mayor Deb Hinchey and other officials expressed dismay, saying preserving services in the outlying Norwich neighborhood was important for economic development, an argument she made when the city appealed the decision. Read more. (For more on the Yantic story, see this previous post.)
August 27, 2013
Last Friday afternoon, the Postal Regulatory Commission sent letters to the folks appealing the closure of the Franklin Station post office in Somerset County, New Jersey, telling them the appeals had been filed too late and were consequently being rejected. The appeals were postmarked one day after the filing deadline.
The Commission’s decision is disturbing for a number of reasons.
First off, the Franklin post office is a station, and since the Postal Service believes only independent post offices are entitled to an appeal, the Final Determination notice announcing the closure did not inform Franklin customers they could appeal to the PRC. It’s a wonder they even discovered that an appeal could be filed. How could the people in Franklin know that the Commission disagrees with the Postal Service about stations and branches and always accepts appeals, regardless of the facility’s classification?
Then there’s the fact that the discontinuance study was conducted in late 2011 and early 2012. A moratorium on post office closings ran from December 2011 to May 2012, so the Postal Service stopped the discontinuance process before it was completed. Most people in Franklin probably had no idea that sometime this summer postal officials had resumed the process and signed off on the Final Determination. There had been no talk about a possible closure since the public meeting was held back in February 2012.
It's even possible that Franklin customers didn't realize the appeal was late. The Final Determination does not state that one has 30 days to file the appeal — it doesn't even mention the right to an appeal to begin with. It does state, however, that the Final Determination should be posted until August 13, which is the day the appeals were sent in.
There's a chance that the Commission would have considered a late appeal if it had been accompanied by a request for late acceptance. The Commission is currently considering such a request on the appeal in Freistatt, Missouri. If it were necessary to file a request for late acceptance, then someone at the PRC should have immediately advised the petitioners to do so. That obviously didn't happen.
Chairman Ruth Goldway dissented from the decision to reject the Franklin appeal, for reasons that go unstated in the letter to the petitioners. The four other commissioners agreed that the appeal should not be heard. The commissioners didn’t even wait for the Postal Service to file a motion to dismiss the case, they didn’t give the Public Representative an opportunity to weigh in, and they didn’t ask to hear from the petitioners why the appeal wasn’t submitted sooner. The four commissioners simply decided that one day late was sufficient cause to reject the appeal.
It should be noted, by the way, that parties often ask the Commission to accept late filings. Since 1997, the Postal Service has filed something like 1,200 Motions for Late Acceptance. The Commission granted nearly every one.
July 30, 2013
For nearly 70 years, the people in Gretna, Louisiana, did their postal business at a beautiful post office built in 1936. It had a New Deal mural entitled “Steamboats on the Mississippi,” painted by Stuart R. Purser in 1939.
In 2003 the Postal Service announced that it wanted to close the post office and sell the building. The city of Gretna responded. It bought the historic building (which is now being renovated), and offered to convert an old train depot, just a block away, into a post office. According to nola.com, renovations of the station were done using $100,000 in city and state money. Then the city gave the Postal Service a sweet deal — $11,000 a year for the 900-square-foot space.
So for the past ten years, downtown Gretna has enjoyed having a small post office in a historic train station. It’s been a boon to businesses, given new life to the old station, and served an important social and economic role in Gretna. All the work elected officials did to keep a post office downtown paid off. They even saved the mural and had it moved over to the new post office.
Now the Postal Service wants to close the railroad station post office. The savings will just be the small amount of rent and the salary of one postal worker, but somehow the Postal Service estimates a ten-year savings of $729,000, even though that employee will just be transferred to the main office in Gretna.
Customers say it’s always busy at the post office, and city officials say closing it would not just be a loss to the community. “It’s critical to business and government,” says the mayor.
The Postal Service began taking steps to close the office in early 2012, and there was a rally to stop it. For some reason, the Postal Service backed off.
Now the Postal Service is picking up where it left off, and city officials are gearing up for another fight. The Parish Council passed a resolution opposing a closure, and residents have been urged to share their views with the Postal Service.
Gretna saved the post office in 2003 and again in 2012. It’s going to be tough winning round three.
July 29, 2013
The rationales offered by the Postal Service when it wants to close a post offices are often not very rational, but what’s happening in East Irvine, California, is a good example of just how irrational the logic of postal management can get.
In 2011, when thousands of post offices were being reviewed for closure, the Postal Service often cited a decline in annual revenues over the previous years as one reason to close the post office. Considering that the Recession had begun in 2008, it was not surprising that revenues were falling, but that didn’t stop the Postal Service from considering the decline as a valid justification for closing a post office.
The story in East Irvine is a little more frustrating for customers to understand.
In 2009, the Postal Service wanted to close their post office, but local historians and residents protested. The post office is housed in a historic 1890 building, which the Postal Service has leased since 1990, and people loved going there for a taste of history.
As a compromise, the Postal Service agreed to keep the office open, but at reduced hours. It’s been open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday, with no Saturday hours.
Now the Postal Service is studying the East Irvine post office for discontinuance. The reason cited? "A steady lack of revenue and/or volume."
Rolland Graham, President of Mountain Outin' Tour Company, is a regular customer of the East Irvine office. "This is the third time we've had to go through this," Graham told the Orange County Register. "It's very frustrating because we can't do any planning."
The lack of revenue and volume at the facility, Graham said, is a result of a reduction in hours there, part of the compromise reached the last time it was facing the possibility of closure.
Last week Postal Service held the public meeting required by the discontinuance regulations, and now it’s waiting for customers to return a survey. The outcome is not much in doubt.
The owner of the building has already put the property on the market. The listing says the lease ends next July. The post office will be probably be closed long before then.
Image credit: East Irving post office, on Google Street Views