Save Your Post Office
September 18, 2011
Over the past couple of months, some 4,400 communities have learned that their post office may soon close. Some post offices that had been previously initiated for closure studies are closing right now. Many communities have received their "final determination" notices saying the post office will close in a few weeks. Many others are in the middle of the “public comment” period, and they are having meetings with postal management, filling out surveys, doing petition drives, and holding rallies. In late July, when it announced its closure plans, the Postal Service said it would take about ten weeks to get the process going for all the post offices on its two lists. In just a few weeks, then, the process will be well underway for all 4,500 communities, and by the end of the year, we could see post offices closing by the hundreds.
Some of these communities are small rural towns with populations numbering in the hundreds, while others are urban neighborhoods where the post office might serve thousands of people. If the average of these post offices served just 250 patrons, over a million people are looking at losing their post office. You may be one of them.
Fighting the Postal Service when it has its sights set on your post office is no easy task. And it may seem futile too. Many people have complained that it felt like the Postal Service had decided to close the post office even before the community was invited to weigh in. You will also have the right to appeal the Postal Service’s decision to close your post office, but those appeals haven’t been having much luck either.
Despite the odds against them, most communities are putting up a fight. Below are some suggestions about what you can do to maybe, just maybe, keep your post office open.
Much of the following comes from an excellent guide called the Red Book, put out by the National Association of Postmasters of the U.S. (NAPUS). So it’s a good idea to start by looking at the Red Book, which you can find here.
By the way, if you have been through this process or know something about it, please send a note using the “contact” link and we’ll add your suggestions to this page.
Learn the procedures
The first thing to do is learn about the Postal Service’s procedures for closing a post office. The process is described in the Code of Federal Regulations associated with Title 39. It’s called 39 CFR part 241, and you can find it here. The Postal Service also provides its employees with a handbook called the USPS Discontinuance Guide.
The Red Book does an excellent job explaining the process, but if you spend some time with these additional documents, you’ll get an even better idea of what’s ahead and what role your community can play at each stage of the process. The procedures may seem overly complex and difficult to understand, but that could work to your advantage, since all that complexity means it’s easy for USPS management to make mistakes along the way. Knowing the procedures will help you notice when the Postal Service makes missteps, and, should it decide to close your post office, you can note these in your appeal petition to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC).
So there's no need to wait until you receive a “final determination” notice to start working on an appeal. You could be taking notes, building your case, and watching for Postal Service errors from the very beginning. Plus, if you do need to file an appeal, it will save a lot of time if you’ve been working on it from the beginning. You could even read a couple of appeals dockets (available on the PRC website — just scroll down on this page to the list of dockets that begin with A-2011) to see how the end-stage of the process works. Knowing where things are heading will help you get it right from the beginning.
NAPUS also has retired postmasters available who can help explain the process and advise you on how to make your case to the Postal Service. You can contact NAPUS for help finding one here.
The steps in the process are as follows: