36 Alaska post offices identified for "Post Office Study"
July 27, 2011
After the release of Postmaster General Patrick Donohue's “post office study” of potential closings, Governor Sean Parnell said in a prepared statement, “Postal service is crucial to rural communities in Alaska." He said, "Many rely on the mail for the necessities of everyday life, from paying bills, to conducting business, to shopping, to staying in touch with friends and relatives."
Parnell said his administration is studying the proposal and will work with affected towns and villages to mitigate or avoid negative consequences. "It is my hope that the federal government will find cost savings while also demonstrating their understanding of the importance of mail service, particularly in our state’s rural communities,” said Parnell.
The 36 Alaska post offices identified for review are mostly in remote rural Alaska with two located in Southeast Alaska.View Alaska Post Office Reviews in a map.
In response to a United States Postal Service (USPS) announcement that nearly 3,700 post offices across the country will be reviewed for potential closure, Sen. Mark Begich weighed in Tuesday with the Postmaster General on his concerns with 36 Alaska post offices targeted for possible closure.
Begich told Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe that post offices in rural Alaska serve unique roles in their community, are often the only source of medicine and food and that replacing them with a computerized kiosk is simply unworkable.
“In Alaska, we’re not talking about mail from grandma on a daily basis. Post offices in rural Alaska are the lifeblood of villages, handling everything from basic food products to medicines and building materials,” Begich said.
Donahoe told Begich that he understands the unique role of remote Alaska post offices and will consider that in his review of possible closures. The review of 3,700 post offices should be completed by February 2012, Donahoe said.
In addition to their conversation, Sen. Begich joined three other senators in a letter to the Postmaster General requesting clarity on a number of issues related to possible closure. You can find the letter here.
“The Post Office needs to be very clear about their intent and process,” Begich said. “Any reduction in services for these 36 Alaska post offices could have grave consequences for the communities, businesses and families.”
Senator Lisa Murkowski also questioned the initial proposed list released by the United States Postal Service suggesting changes to Alaska’s Postal Service operations. “The United States Postal Service themselves admit that this is a rough first draft from a computer’s raw data,” Murkowski said. “But you simply can’t compare four Seattle post offices to 1 in Platinum – this is necessity, not convenience in terms of Alaska’s way of life.”
The Postmaster General held a news conference earlier Tuesday, to announce the list of 3,653 post offices that will be studied for possible closure or relocation – including 36 in Alaska. The list was based on three criteria—short business hours, diminished volume, and little foot traffic – as is frequently the case in rural Alaska. The next step for the Postal Service will be a comprehensive evaluation by postal analysts, who will weigh changes to each post office.
Senator Murkowski’s staff has been informed that if there is no other local post office in a rural community, the post office there will not close. Another part of yesterday’s announcement was an initiative where Village Post Offices – if a restructuring were considered necessary – could operate within other local retailers like pharmacies or grocery stores, if available.
“I know that the United States Postal Service needs reform, and the Postmaster General needs to put everything on the table when it comes to finding efficiencies,” added Murkowski. “As the USPS considers the proposed closures and relocations of Alaska’s post offices, I am confident they will recognize that many of these locations serve critical functions beyond just selling stamps and delivering letters. In many off-the-road-system communities, the Post Office is the only place where prescriptions are delivered, businesses can receive and send inventory, and banking is conducted. Not to mention the weather challenges faced by many regions of Alaska experience, where even driving a few miles further – where there are roads – can be not only difficult but life threatening.”
According to information provided on the U.S. Postal Services' website, more and more of their customers are choosing to conduct postal business online, on smart phones and at shopping destinations. And according to the U.S. Postal Service, that means the need for the United States Post Office to maintain nearly 32,000 retail offices around the county has diminished.
“Today, more than 35 percent of the Postal Service’s retail revenue comes from expanded access locations such as grocery stores, drug stores, office supply stores, retail chains, self-service kiosks, ATMs and usps.com, open 24/7,” said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. “Our customer’s habits have made it clear that they no longer require a physical post office to conduct most of their postal business.”
In order to right-size the Post Office's retail network, the Postal Service is planning to study approximately 3,700 retail offices around the country to determine customer needs. Of that number, 36 locations in Alaska are being studied. As part of this study, the Post Office will be introducing a retail-replacement option –– Village Post Offices –– as an option for affected communities.
“By working with third-party retailers, we’re creating easier, more convenient access to our products and services when and where our customers want them,” Donahoe said. “The Village Post Office will offer another way for us to meet our customers’ needs.”
“The Postal Service of the future will be smaller, leaner and more competitive and it will continue to drive commerce, serve communities and deliver value,” Donahoe added.
According to the U.S. Postal Service, Village Post Offices 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.
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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