Rural residents: Keep post officesThe Cleveland school closed in 1982. The town’s restaurants went out of business in the past couple of years. Along the way, even the bar in town shut down. Now the Cleveland Post Office is being considered for shutdown. The U.S. Postal Service gathered information at a hearing Tuesday at the Cleveland Fire Hall as part of the review process.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
CLEVELAND, N.D. — The Cleveland school closed in 1982.
The town’s restaurants went out of business in the past couple of years. Along the way, even the bar in town shut down.
Now the Cleveland Post Office is being considered for shutdown. The U.S. Postal Service gathered information at a hearing Tuesday at the Cleveland Fire Hall as part of the review process.
“We’ve lost our restaurants and if we lose our post office there’ll be nothing left,” said resident Olga Hieb at the hearing.
It was a sentiment echoed by others in the attendance.
“If we lose this the city loses its identity,” said Marilyn Zimmerman, former postmistress at Cleveland and current resident. “It’s all we have left. No bar anymore, there are still two churches.”
But Zimmerman also recognized the problem.
“There is less use at the local post office because of computers,” she said. “People use e-mail and pay bills online and that all cuts in to the revenue for the post office. Still, the post office is a vital service to the community.”
The hearing is the first step in the process that could possibly lead to closing the post office. Donohue and other U.S. Postal Service staff plan to meet with several other North Dakota communities including Verona Forbes and Fullerton. Donohue also met with more than 50 people in Ypsilanti, N.D., Tuesday evening.
“We truly want people’s opinions,” said Nita Donohue, Dakotas District manager of post office operations in Sioux Falls, S.D. “This is the chance for people to voice their thoughts.”
Donohue said post offices like Cleveland were flagged because they are underutilized, meaning the postal worker there has less than two hours of work in an eight-hour day.
Although she did not have exact figures, she said the Cleveland Post Office operation was losing money and not covering the cost of staff, much less any other operating costs.
“When services are used less they are downgraded,” she said. “Cleveland has been cut back over the last years.”
This situation is common across the nation especially in rural post offices, Donohue said. She said in the district she supervises only larger post offices such as West Fargo were considered profitable.
Donohue also stressed the post office would continue to serve the community.
“The rural carriers do a good job,” she said. “The service wouldn’t change but there will be no specific point people could gather.”
It is that place to gather to get mail that is important to some.
“The post office is a big service to the community,” said Darlene Erickson, who recently moved to the area from California. “It is a community thing. They have a helpful staff that can weigh a package and tell you the best way to ship it. You don’t get that service over the Internet.”
Ypsilanti residents agreed.
Not only do they use the post office for mailings, but they use it as a gathering place, a center of information and even a bus stop when the weather is bad.
Community members in Ypsilanti included farmers, the elderly and small-business owners who agreed traveling to Jamestown to buy stamps or send packages would create a hardship for them. Ypsilanti resident Dale Marks said closing the Ypsilanti Post Office would, in essence, increase the cost of postage to residents there because they’d have to travel to Jamestown or other areas and spend more money on fuel.
Ypsilanti resident Judy Graves agreed.
“We don’t have the benefit of another post office around the block,” she said, saying larger cities do.
Donohue said post offices across the country were flagged, in both urban and rural areas. She said the postal service had not made any decisions yet and recommended residents express their concerns and fill out the surveys the postal service had delivered to individual homes.
“If we do nothing, we’re going to run out of money,” she said.
Donohue said the testimony at the hearing along with questionnaires filled out by postal patrons would be accumulated and reviewed for about 60 days. The information is reviewed by the regional headquarters for another 30 days before a decision is reached. After that, if the decision is to close the post office, local residents can appeal.
Donohue said nationally plans included closing about 2,000 post offices around the country. There is no quota of how many North Dakota post offices would be closed. Similar hearings are scheduled in Verona this week and in Fullerton and Forbes in the coming weeks.
Sun reporter Katie Ryan-Anderson contributed to this report.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at email@example.com