Mail matters: Two out of three N.D. post offices to reduce hoursSometime in the next two years most post offices in Stutsman County will see a reduction in hours. Those post offices are not alone. In North Dakota, 225 of the 324 post offices will see some reduction in hours of operation.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
BUCHANAN, N.D. — Sometime in the next two years most post offices in Stutsman County will see a reduction in hours. Those post offices are not alone. In North Dakota, 225 of the 324 post offices will see some reduction in hours of operation.
The changes will be phased in over a period of two years, said Pete Nowacki, media representative for the U.S. Postal Service. Reductions in hours at rural post offices are called the Post Plan and part of an effort to save the Postal Service $2.1 billion each year.
“We’re working first on the post offices that do not have a sitting postmaster,” he said. “The changes to the other post offices will come as managers can conduct meetings in those communities.”
In post offices with a current postmaster that postmaster has the option of remaining on the job and keeping the post office open on its current schedule for up to two years.
That’s the option Paulette Schumaker, postmaster of the Buchanan post office, has chosen.
“I’m eligible for retirement but I’ll stay on in whatever capacity,” she said.
It’s a sentiment the community shares.
“We’d like to keep her and the post office,” said Jan Lees, owner of Country Clipper in Buchanan. “It’s the center of the community. Everyone meets there since there is no café. They visit with Paulette, she knows pretty much everything in town.”
The Post Plan includes a reduction in the hours of operation at Buchanan from eight to two hours per day. This reduces the hours the window is open for purchasing stamps or weighing packages. It does not affect the lobby hours for access to post office boxes or dropping off items to mail.
“We make a point of everybody doing all their post office business here so it looks busier,” Lees said. “A lot of the community turned out at the meeting to try to keep it open.”
Meetings a year ago discussed changes to Postal Service operations. Those discussions included closing post offices. Instead, the Post Plan reduces hours of operation.
“During those meetings reducing hours was often brought up,” Nowacki said. “Some people will be fine with this and some will object but we don’t have the mail volume anymore to warrant these costs.”
Nowacki said the smaller post offices will be open for two, four or six hours daily on weekdays and maintain the same Saturday schedules.
“It’s based on the number of post office boxes, deliveries and revenue,” he said. “The schedules will be revisited as time goes on.”
Edith Stoppleworth, former Cleveland postmaster, retired effective Sept. 30, rather than deal with the reduced hours.
“I’m just not happy with the cuts, it’s not a good situation,” she said.
Stoppleworth said the meetings last year did not give Postal Service officials a good feeling for the community sentiment.
“The town meeting at Cleveland was done in the day,” she said. “Not a lot of people could attend. They’d get a better response if it was held in the evening.”
Staffing could also be a problem for post offices with limited hours.
“They are going to have a hard time getting people to come in to work those limited hours,” Stoppleworth said.
Nowacki said he was not concerned about finding workers.
“We’ve always had a number of people who have worked in part-time positions,” he said.
He also said many of the post office staff reductions in the next two years will come from retirement.
“We have a fairly mature workforce,” he said. “The post office did a lot of hiring in the 1980s when volumes were growing.”
Meetings are scheduled in Ypsilanti and Montpelier in November to discuss reductions in services there. Patrons of other post offices will be notified by mail about a month before any meeting. Changes would go into effect 90 days after the meeting.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org