8-16-11: Rural Life, Post-Post Office

August 16, 2011 at 8:10 am 6 comments

The United States Postal Service is seriously in the red—a $2.6 billion dollar loss just in this year’s first quarter. In late July, the USPS released a list of about 3,700 post offices it’s considering closing.  About half of them are in rural areas.

Forty-two of these post offices are in Marylandincluding the only two remaining post offices on remote Smith Island.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has said, “Our customer’s habits have made it clear that they no longer require a physical post office to conduct most of their postal business.”

Some residents of rural Still Pond, Maryland, in Kent County beg to differ. They lost their post office ten months ago, when a fire damaged the historic building that housed it. The USPS decided to keep it closed, although residents are fighting that decision.

Since Still Pond residents already have gotten a taste of what life is like when a small, rural community loses its post office, we thought we’d call one. Sheilah talks to T. Sergeant Pepper, a lawyer who has lived in Still Pond for 35 years.

We reached out to Congressman Andy Harris, the Republican who represents the Eastern Shore, for comment about the Still Pond Post Office. We haven’t heard back yet.

We also reached out to the U.S. Postal Service and received this reply from Freda Sauter in Corporate Communications:

The Postal Service is continuing to realign postal facilities and streamline the number of postal-operated retail locations to meet the changing needs of our customers, and to reduce costs.  We have taken unprecedented steps over the past decade to reduce costs in areas within our control, including cost reduction totaling $12 billion in the past four fiscal years. However, the Postal Service is nearing insolvency due to the continued decline of First-Class Mail, the effects of unique legislative mandates and increases in network costs, wages and benefits. Private sector businesses in dire financial straits can file for bankruptcy and use the reorganization process to restructure their organization. This option is not available to the Postal Service; therefore we must continue to realign postal facilities and continue to deliver excellent service to our customers.

Still Pond residents have choices on where to conduct their postal business. Look online at usps.com – the 24-hour Post Office on your computer (buy stamps, change address, hold mail and so much more,  mobile devices, smart phones, iPhone mobile apps and Droid applications, retail stores, grocery stores, banks ATMS, pharmacies, warehouse stores and office supply stores, letter carriers to pick up packages at your home or office, we are offering rural delivery and letter carriers can sell stamps to our customers.

Also the Postal Service is offering another retail-replacement option for affected communities – Village Post Office. The Village Post Office would be operated by local businesses – such as pharmacies, grocery stores and other appropriate retailers – and would offer popular postal products and services such as stamps and flat-rate packaging. It could be called “Still Pond Village Post Office”. Residents interested should contact Retail Manager Tammy Kenealy at 410-347-4616.

Residence can not appeal the study but they can appeal the decision to close within 30-days of the posted decision.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

Entry filed under: Community, On Air. Tags: , .

8-16-11: A Cop in Your Pocket 8-17-11: D’You Want Apple Slices With That?

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Anita Pepper Kavanaugh  |  August 16, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Great story on the Still Pond Market and Post Office closing on Maryland NPR this morning. Go Dad!

    Reply
  • 2. Anita Pepper Kavanaugh  |  August 16, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Great story on the Still Pond Market and Post Office closing on Maryland NPR this morning.

    Reply
  • 3. Post Office Savings  |  August 16, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Sad times when these post offices shut up shop. Surely the post service can make money in other ways?

    Reply
  • 4. craig o'donnell  |  August 16, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    Remember that most of the “deficit” is made up of mandatory pre-funding for future pension obligations, something no other agency associated with the government is required to do. It’s a bookkeeping deficit. Depending on who you ask the annual USPS operating deficit is either $1 billion — a manageable number when you consider the USPS moves hundreds of billions of pieces of mail each year — or a slight profit.

    Meanwhile closing more than 4,000 post offices will save an astonishing … $200 million a year.

    This requirement, passed by Congress in 2006, begins to smell like a right-wing attack on “socialist” government enterprises to force the USPS to contract ever-increasing amounts of work to large private companies. USPS already contracts $17 billion worth of work to Fed Ex every year. And they can’t find $200 million of savings out of that to leave rural post offices alone?

    I can’t remember if Freda Sauter’s press release mentions that.

    Then there’s the study that outlines how the USPS should stop door-to-door mail delivery everywhere — in cities and towns and anywhere else — and concludes it’s desirable.

    I don’t think Freda Sauter’s press release mentions that.

    As for the rest, I’ve seen that claptrap before, and the wording hasn’ t changed since March-April 2011. I’ve also had it quoted chapter and verse to me on the phone and in e-mails.

    After all, her job is not to respond to questions, but to deliver the USPS management’s talking points.

    Well, she does have something new. In July, after (AFTER) posting the notice of closure for the Still Pond Post Office, the USPS announced the, yes, “Village Post Office” concept.

    All you need is a convenience store in your village! Think of it as “mailing flat-rate boxes from Kwik-Mart.”

    What Freda Sauter failed to mention is how the USPS browbeat the Still Pond community with the USPS concept of the “rolling post office” — a guy in a delivery truck — being just as convenient as a physical post office in the months before a marketing spin genius at USPS HQ came up with the “village” label.

    Unfortunately, no one who uses a rural post office believes that, because it’s not true.

    By defining a “rolling post office” as just as good as a physical post office, the whole discussion becomes an exercise in bureaucratic form-filling for the USPS, and that’s exactly what the community got with the “study.”

    An organization that had able management would have looked at the Still Pond situation and left the office on “suspension” pending the outcome of the Still Pond Store restoration.

    An organization that had able management would have recognized an opportunity to generate good PR by — get this — taking a local Still Pond building owner up on his offer of space made back in April. Then they would have made an example about how a “lost” post office could be replaced with a “village post office.”

    But as far as I know, the gentleman who offered space for a replacement post office was shuttled off into the oblivion of the USPS property management division (or whatever title they give themselves) and, if I know him, he said to blazes with the USPS bureaucracy.

    By the way, the post office has made it a 5-month struggle to get the administrative record for the “study” to close by using “FOIA” as a club to deny facts to the community.

    And even today, one department is saying the material cannot be released to the public while another department has followed postal regulations and placed the entire document at the designated substitute post office, Worton MD.

    There are two possibilities: one department is clueless; or else the administrative record is more extensive than the document released to the public.

    It’s anyone’s guess, because the USPS doesn’t want anyone to know what they’re up to nor do they want to deal honestly with rural post office “customers.” Nor anyone else — if they close every single one of the 4,000+ post offices they want to, they won’t even come close to saving a half a percent of their fictional $8 billion accounting deficit.

    Reply
  • 6. Jim Herron  |  August 17, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    The US Postal Service has created this dilema themselves. How can a business offer to send a letter 3 miles down the road for the same price to send the same letter to Los Angeles. Our family has resided in downtown Still Pond for the past 18 years. I understand the Post Office was not there for me to catch up on the news with my neighbors, but it was an integral part of the community and served my business as well as several others. As for any understanding and helpfulness with dealing with the loss of our post office, I can honestly say I was shocked at the lack of information and communication from the U.S. Postal service on this issue. Bryan Landry and the other administrative leaders were evasive and seemed out of touch with the needs of our community as well as other similar towns. As for the idea that we are in some “pie in the sky” nostalgia driven thoughts, that cheapens the seriousness of the situation as it pertains to the issue at hand. I have talked to many people who have lived here all their lives that are in agreement with the rest of us. Thank you for airing this story.

    Reply

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