The U.S. Postal Service is broke, and closing post offices is one way to streamline business.
“It’s not so much a money thing as it is about the fact that if not as many people are coming into these places, then why are they still open?” said Pete Nowacki of the USPS in Minneapolis.
There are more than 3,000 post offices now on the chopping block in Minnesota, and that doesn’t count the first round of closures already underway.
In Rock County, the Kenneth post office is already in the process of closing, and under consideration are Hardwick, Beaver Creek and Magnolia.
“I do know there are a number of people here who are very upset,” said Christy Ferrence, officer in charge of the post office in Beaver Creek.
She comes to Beaver Creek from Pipestone, and said it’s not a popular proposition for any small town to lose its post office.
“I feel bad … If the post office goes, what else goes?” Ferrence said.
She added that several families in the Beaver Creek area have military members who were recently deployed. Now, more than ever, she said the local post office will be utilized for sending packages overseas.
Other residents have business concerns.
“It’s crucial,” Lila Tatge said about the post office in Beaver Creek. “I mail packages four times a week, plus statements for the lumber yard.”
She and her husband, Rick, and son, Shannon, own Beaver Creek Lumber, and she also operates two home businesses, Norwex and Mary Kay.
She has trouble answering the question, “What would you do without a post office in Beaver Creek?”
The answer is, she’d have to drive to the next nearest town with postal service, either Hills or Luverne, which is six to eight miles one way, either direction.
These are the issues facing most of the small-town post offices facing closure.
The timeline for Kenneth is getting shorter as closure becomes imminent.
The timeline for Beaver Creek, Hardwick and Magnolia is vague.
The Postal Service is in the process of tracking the number of customers who come through the offices, the number of post office boxes rented, the number of customers on delivery and the proximity to other post offices.
If, after this process, it’s determined the post offices should still be considered for closure, postal delivery customers in these towns will receive questionnaires about how they use their local post office and to what degree.
They’ll be asked things like how often they come into the post office and what kinds of business they do at that location.
After that, delivery customers will be notified of public meetings that will provide them with information about the process.
At that point, Tatge said she will be sure to speak up for keeping a post office in Beaver Creek.
“We’re just as important as anyone else,” she said, when asked what her message would be.
According to Nowacki the main message to postal customers through the closure process is that customers will have delivery service.
In addition, options such as cluster boxes with lock boxes or village post offices will be discussed.
With a village post office concept, postal services such as stamps and packaging sales, are located in an existing community business, such as a convenience store.
Nowacki agreed that the concept harkens back to the days of general stores where postmasters shared space.
“The difference is there won’t be a postmaster in this case,” Nowacki said.
“The postal service will contract with these businesses to offer these services. The benefit is that it will drive a little extra traffic to that store. … It’s not something that anyone is going to get rich on, but it would be a way to keep postal services in town.”