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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Last chance to comment on Freistatt PO

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Freistatt area residents have until Oct. 30 to submit comments on the proposed closing of the Freistatt Post Office.

The U.S. Postal Service's report on the proposed closing will have been on display for public viewing at the Freistatt Post Office for 60 days by the deadline.

According to the report, the annual administrative cost of the Freistatt facility, which has one full-time employee, runs $80,418. The cost for an alternate, described at the public meeting as turning delivery over to a rural carrier from Monett, at $10,100. No details were provided in the report explaining the figures.

"That's what it costs, according to the Office of the Inspector General," said Richard Watkins, spokesman for the Postal Service's mid-America district, based in Kansas City.

Most of the expense comes from salaries and benefits, including health insurance and retirement, Watkins said. A further breakdown was not available.

The report categorized the Freistatt office as having insufficient customer demand, based on stamp sales of less than $27,000 a year. Rick Belcher, manager of post officer operations, said in the report, "Over the past several years, this office has experienced a steady decline in revenue and/or volume."

Frances Boman, postmaster in Aurora, told the audience at the public meeting that sales in Freistatt increased from $22,929 to $23,813 between 2008 and 2010, which was unusual.

"Our numbers show these [3,653 post offices under study for closing] are the offices nationwide who show a significant decline in retail transactions and volume," said Watkins. "People are using the mail less. They made 200 million fewer visits to post offices in the last five years. People are still gathering at the post office, but they're not buying stamps."

Watkins said with revenue down by $2 billion as a result of those fewer visits, the Postal Service is looking for ways to maintain its nationwide distribution system. At the present time, 35 percent of retail revenue comes from other retail outlets selling stamps, such as local businesses contracting to be a "village post office" or a national chain like Office Depot.

"The smart phone ap for postal service is one of the top 10 free aps," Watkins said. "It will search for packages, locate post offices and retail services outlets. That's a technology that's only going to improve."

Customers can make their case for keeping post offices like Freistatt up for review. Watkins said postal officials are looking for proposals that make sense, weighing them against the alternative of providing service from another outlet within a 10-mile distance.

Freistatt residents have been receiving two form letters in response to questions submitted during the comment period. The letter from Rick Belcher, manager of post office operations in Kansas City, said senior citizens would receive service from carriers coming to roadside mailboxes. Other social outlets exist in the community for gathering.

"A community's identity derives from the interest and vitality of its residents and their use of its name," Belcher wrote. "The Postal Service is helping to preserve community identity by continuing the use of the community name and zip code in addresses."

A second letter, from Kimberly Silance, the district discontinuance coordinator for the Postal Service, said the comment period helps postal officials determine if "a maximum degree of effective and regular service can be provided through means other than an actual post office."

Silance added, "The Postal Service is adapting to meet the evolving needs of its customers during changing times."

Comments on the proposed closing can be sent to the headquarters level of the Postal Service at 125 S. Washington St., Strafford, MO 65757. A decision, pending appeal, is expected by December.

"If we're going to continue to be a viable organization, we've got to make these tough decisions now," Watkins said.

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