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Postal official sheds more light on possible closings

Monday, August 8, 2011

Officials from the United States Postal Service (USPS) recently announced that they are considering closing thousands of local post offices throughout the U.S., including several in the Cherokee County area.

Nationwide there are 3,653 offices that will be looked at by the USPS. In Iowa, there are 178 offices that will be looked at more closely, including five local offices in Cherokee County (Cleghorn, Larrabee, Meriden, Quimby, and Washta) plus the post office in Calumet in O'Brien County.

Richard Watkins, Postal Spokesman from Des Moines/Hawkeye District stated the reasons for the possible closings is the fewer visits by people to their post offices. "People aren't using the post offices as much any more. They are getting their stamps at grocery stores, box stores and online," said Watkins.

He also stated that the USPS had 200 million fewer visits last year, resulting in a 2 billion dollar loss. He further stated that data showed that over 35 percent of the USPS revenue is now generated online.

"We will get leaner and smaller," added Watkins.

Watkins also noted that there will be many factors considered to determine which offices will be closed, such as the number of transactions, community size, number of box holders and how close they are to nearby towns that have larger facilities or proximity to retail locations.

However, this doesn't mean that if a town's office is closed, area residents will not be able to still receive their mail in that community.

In fact, Watkins said that there will be community meetings in every community on the list at which people will be able to voice their ideas.

"The Post Office has to live within its means. We've seen many changes over the life of the Post Office. Back in the 1860's, mail was delivered to many of these towns by train. that is not the case any more. Things change. What was good for the 1860's, or the 1960's for that matter, may not be the same today," said Watkins.

"People in smaller communities get their groceries in a bigger town, they get their gas in other towns. Now they just may have to get their postal needs met in a larger community," added Watkins.

To meet the rural needs of its customers, the USPS is introducing a retail-replacement option for affected communities. This retail-replacement option is called Village Post Offices.

Local businesses (pharmacies, grocery stores, and more) would operate the Village Post Offices, and offer popular postal products and services, such as stamps and flat-rate packaging, to area customers.

As it stands for now, Watkins said that there would be no closings until December of this year. That will give the USPS time to gather its information on each community and to hold meetings.

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