Post office in peril

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News

February 13, 2010 - 12:00 AM

NEOSHO FALLS — The post office here is a money-losing operation.
During the last four years, receipts totaled $32,477 against $108,366 in expenses.
Noting that the post office is a business, which at the least must break even, Pam Richards warned about 20 Neosho Falls residents Thursday evening that the future of their post office is in jeopardy.
Richards is postmaster in Joplin and acting manager of postal operations in eastern Kansas. She explained that questions asked at the public hearing, together with questionnaires local residents filled out, would be forwarded to the U.S. Postal Service district office in Kansas City. A recommendation then will be sent to national headquarters in Washington, D.C., where a decision will be made.
The decision probably won’t occur before year’s end, she said. Rumors have circulated that closure of the Neosho Falls office is imminent.
Richards didn’t deny that the Neosho Falls post office was hanging by a thread, in the face of a torrent of opposition from residents who spoke out.
They argued that expense figures were inflated and that it would be unfair for residents to have to depend on a rural carrier or drive to Piqua, Iola or Yates Center for postal services. Richards countered that the lion’s share of Neosho Falls’ 75 households already were served by a rural carrier dispatched from Yates Center. Nine residents have post office boxes; access is limited to the two hours a day it is open.
Richards added that rural carriers were “mobile post offices, they can sell stamps and money orders” and ferry outgoing mail and packages.
Clarence Henderson, a retired USPS employee, was among several who railed about inconveniences closing the post office would cause. His eBay business, specifically, would be hindered by having to depend on a rural carrier or having to take packages elsewhere.

RICHARDS didn’t sugar-coat her message that times are tough in the mail business. She pointed out that two post offices and a plant, where incoming mail is sorted and distributed, had been closed in Kansas City and that there were problems everywhere.
“Post offices are closing left and right,” with volume flagging, she said.
“We don’t get much bulk mail anymore — that’s where much of our income came from — and people are using e-mail instead of writing letters and they’re also shopping online,” which has eliminated scads of catalogs.
One participant offered opening the post office more hours a day but fewer days a week to reduce expenses. It was open four hours a day before going to two in November.
USPS regulations don’t permit occasional day openings, Richards said.
Lisa Holloway, who lives in Gas, is relief postmaster at Neosho Falls, a position she’s held for two years, although the job was meant to last three months.
Holloway’s assignment is not unique, Richards said.
“I have 20 openings in (eastern) Kansas,” but there is a hold on hirings for full-time employees, she said.
Ron German, Neosho Falls mayor, suggested hiring younger people, “who don’t cost as much. After 30 years you ought to get out and let younger people have the jobs.”
Richard Bruner, 88 and a lifetime Neosho Falls resident, said he thought business concerns at the local office were overblown.
“I’ve been getting mail at the Neosho Falls post office for 80 years and it never did make any money,” Bruner said. “Now, with us in the worst recession since I was a kid, you’re worrying about it not making money.”

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