Supporters to defend keeping hours at Nordland, Joyce, LaPush and Sekiu post offices
By Charlie Bermant
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“We are hoping that we can maintain service as it is,” said Rita Kepner of a Marrowstone Island.
“They are saying they are cutting back the hours to save money, but from all indications, our post office is profitable, and cutting back the hours doesn't make sense.”
In February, the Postal Service announced it was discontinuing Saturday home delivery in August because of rising costs and falling profits.
The Nordland Post Office is among rural post offices, including Joyce, Sekiu and LaPush, likely to have daily retail counter-service hours cut from eight hours to four hours by September 2014.
The Postal Service distributed surveys to customers to determine how this should be accomplished.
This outreach includes site visits from postal employees to explain the process, including one set for 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Nordland Post Office, 7180 Flagler Road.
It follows two meetings last Tuesday in Joyce and LaPush, where Elizabeth Jenkins, a Postal Service representative who will also appear in Nordland, presented information.
About 35 people attended the LaPush gathering, while more than 100 turned up at Joyce, according to Leonard Pierce, co-owner with his wife, Mary Pfaff-Pierce, of the Joyce General Store.
In LaPush, Postmaster Laura Huling said the meeting went well.
“We have a small office and know that we are going to be open fewer hours, and fewer hours is better than no hours,” she said.
Joyce, like Nordland, has a small post office located inside of a general store, and members of both communities said the post office is an important component in small-town life.
Both offices also are profitable on their own, according to locals, who question why the Postal Service would close down a profitable operation.
Postal Service spokesman Ernie Swanson, who is with the Seattle district, said individual financial details are not disclosed and the cutback is designed to save money systemwide.
“It's not a question of individual profitability,” Swanson said.
“We have looked at decreasing the hours of retail support because of a downward trend in revenue.”
The survey, distributed at all locations in the weeks prior to the event, outlines four choices: decrease daily hours, close the post office and provide services through carriers, farm out the operation of the post office to a private contractor or close the post office and route service to another existing post office.
However, the closures of post offices in Jefferson and Clallam counties are all but off the table, Swanson has said.
Swanson said the agency initially was considering 3,700 post offices across the country for closure but shifted its focus instead to looking at reducing hours of operation at about 13,100 offices nationwide.
The survey had no space to write in another alternative, and the possibility of keeping existing service was not listed as an option.
Nordland reacted by starting a petition stating a preference to keep hours as they were, gathering more than 400 signatures in support.
Keeping the existing service was also a preferred option at Joyce, and Pierce was disappointed that was not an option.
“They came out here saying they wanted to hear what we wanted to say, but they weren't listening,” he said. “They already had their minds made up.”
That's true, Swanson said, adding, “When we scheduled the meetings, we knew we were going to cut back the hours.”
“We passed out the surveys and are holding the meetings so people can tell us how that should be done.”
Swanson said the Postal Service is gathering data from the surveys and meetings, and will post notices at individual post offices with revised hours within a week of the meetings.
Postal customers in Joyce and LaPush could learn about specific cutbacks this week.
Both Nordland and Joyce have Saturday hours, something that will not change, Swanson said.
But they, like all post offices across the nation, will be affected by the Postal Service plan to limit street-address mail-delivery service Saturdays to only parcels, restricting letter delivery to Mondays through Fridays, beginning in August.
“We are the only post office in the area that has Saturday hours,” said Nordland Postmaster Rick Tracer.
“It gets really busy on Saturday,” he said.
“People come here from miles around because they want to mail a package.”
The Nordland Post Office, adjacent to the general store, has about 90 square feet of lobby space, causing
Kepner to question how a meeting of any kind could be held in such a small area.
Looking at the number of signatures gathered and the local interest, Kepner expects Tuesday's meeting to draw a crowd.
“Whatever happens, it will spill out into the parking lot,” she said.
Swanson said the meetings are usually short — about 15 minutes —and are always held in the local post office, though he said he was not familiar with the Nordland facility.
Pierce said the change is “very upsetting to the people around here who feel that it doesn't matter what they say or do because they have made their decision, which comes from some person sitting behind a desk who has no idea of the merits of a small post office.”
The continued cutbacks will result in the eventual failure and closure of the entire Postal Service, Pierce predicted.
“This is death by a thousand cuts,” Pierce said.
“They are called the United States Postal Service, but they have done away with the 'service' part.
“This post office has been here for 100 years, and they are forgetting that.”
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: March 03. 2013 12:50AM