Forty-one local residents and area postal workers attended a noon meeting at Casavan Apiaries Wednesday to learn more about plans to cut hours at the Wessington Post Office. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss results of a survey Wessington postal customers received in September and to get community input regarding that survey. “We want to get everybody on the same page,” said Paul Turnbull, area manager of Post Office Operations and facilitator of the meeting.
Turnbull explained that the USPS had established a review process for certain post offices known as the POST Plan, and that the Wessington Post Office was among the offices evaluated under the POST Plan criteria. The USPS intends to maintain the Wessington Post Office with four hours of window service each weekday. “We’ll not reduce the services we provide,” said Turnbull. “We have a strong record of providing dependable service with every venue of moving products and services for 200 years. But we’ve got to work within what we’ve got to continue the services we provide.”
In lieu of serious financial issues the US Postal Service has been facing since 2006, much has already been done to eliminate and consolidate to cut down on spending. “We have cut 263,000 jobs, but still need to reduce the infrastructure to make more efficient use of the people and facilities,” said Turnbull. “Eighty-seven percent of post offices lose money. The 13% that do make money have to pay for the rest.”
Use of the internet by its potential customers figures prominently in the loss of USPS revenue, since much of what has always been sent through the postal system-letters, invitations, orders and bill payments-is now being transacted online. “More than 40 billion transactions have been lost to the internet,” said Turnbull. “The postal service is not subsidized by the federal government, so the stamps our customers buy is what we have to operate on.”
The survey indicated that the people of Wessington want to keep their post office, but in order for that to happen, cuts backs must be made. Last fiscal year, actual revenue for the Wessington Post Office was $41,555.00, with $48,452.00 in total expenses. Wessington’s revenues in the current year reveal a shortfall of over $8,300.00. Cutbacks must be made, says Turnbull, in order for communities such as Wessington to keep their post office and still have the USPS remain viable.
Of the 270 surveys mailed, 115 responded. Ten responders indicated the best option was to conduct a study that would result in the closing of the Wessington Post Office. Of those ten, only one said they’d rather have post office box service at a nearby post office, and four indicated they would be more in favor of a roadside mailbox delivery option which would include retail and delivery service provided by a rural carrier. The other five said they preferred the option of a Village Post Office (VPO). “A VPO is where you have a business that would sell stamps and accept flat rate boxes for mailing,” Turnbull said.
Ninety-one percent (105) people voted for realignment of hours-the option for reducing window hours to four each weekday. Currently, the window is open 9 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. and 1:10 p.m. to 4 p.m. “After taking into account the operational needs of the Wessington Post Office, retail hours would likely be 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday,” said Turnbull. “In seven days, you’ll know for sure what the hours will be,” said Turnbull, “and that information will be posted in the Wessington Post Office.”
November 30 is the soonest the change in hours would be made, says Turnbull, but with the holiday season, it is likely that the change will not be made until early January. Under the new plan, Saturday hours would most likely remain the same as now (8:15 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.) and the blue mailbox located outside the post office to post mail outside of window hours would stay. Rural delivery will also remain pretty much the same as it is now.
Turnbull also emphasized that postal customers can always go to usps.com to do all that one normally does at the post office. “You can go to the website to have your mail held, have a package picked up or purchase stamps,” said Turnbull. “You can even track packages for free.” According to Turnbull, Wessington’s post office gets credit for whatever postage is purchased online.
Area postal workers in attendance of Wednesday’s meeting included Michelle Felhacker, Aberdeen post master/acting plant manager in Huron; Conda Green, postmaster at Howard/post office review coordinator; Judy Boomsma, Miller postmaster; and local workers, Nanette Christiansen, who is acting post master at Wessington, Juanita Fritzsche, Diana LeGrande, and mail carrier, Shelly Hoffman.
For additional information on the coming postal changed, go to https://usps.com/ourfuturenetwork and click on the link under “Preserving Post Offices.”
Paul Turnbull, manager of Post Office Operations, explains to a crowd of Wessington residents why the US Postal System has decided to cut the hours of their local post office from six down to four hours each weekday. Trunbull says the new hours will be posted at the Wessington Post Office on October 31 and will take effect sometime after November 30.