Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Rural Post Office Dilemma

Throughout the history of the U.S., the first thing that happened in a small town was that someone made themselves postmaster and established a post office. It might be in a one-room dugout, log cabin or sod house, or in a corner of the dry-goods store or saloon, but a post office was what put the town on the map.

Historic maps are dotted with towns that no longer exist on modern maps because they don't have a post office. Some of the towns themselves remain, others are still hanging on but without a name and no real identity, possibly not even a dot on a map, because they have no post office.

We all know the United States Post Office is the poster child for mismanagement and inefficiency. Now in their infinite wisdom, the powers-that-be have decided that to save money and streamline the operation, what is needed is to close rural post offices and mail sorting centers, and reduce mail delivery from six days a week to five or less. This last isn't anything new... there are many remote rural locations which only receive mail a couple of days a week or fewer.

Recent news told of the possibility of both the North Platte and Grand Island mail sorting centers being closed. What this means for residents of central, west central and western Nebraska is that our mail would go from our mail boxes to either Cheyenne or Omaha to be sorted before returning to it's destination - even if that destination is across town.

Already, when we put in a change-of-address order, all of our mail must be collected and sent to Omaha to have those little yellow stickers put on it before being forwarded to us. It is the only post office in the area with that capability.

Rural postmasters are BREAKING THE RULES if they receive a letter addressed to another recipient in their same small town and they simply walk over and put it into the correct box. Why? Because a 44 cent stamp doesn't pay for OVERNIGHT DELIVERY! The P.O. has decreed that these letters must be sent away and sorted before being delivered simply because if they are put in the right box it will get there TOO SOON!

Just how much extra expense is entailed in shipping our local letters hundreds of miles round-trip before delivering them? Is that efficient?

Post Office employees aren't exempt from this stupidity either. Employees at sorting facilities file grievances through their union if a "casual" worker (seasonal, someone borrowed for busy times) gets overtime - even though they don't want to work overtime and didn't work overtime, union workers will get additional money added to their check if someone else works overtime! Make sense? I didn't think so. And if a supervisor happens to touch a piece of mail - a grievance is filed because it isn't in the supervisor's job description to touch mail.

The answer from my point of view is to close post offices and mail sorting centers in urban areas and reduce the frequency of their mail delivery. Urban neighborhoods identities aren't tied to their post office. The towns and neighborhoods will still exist if the mail is sorted a few blocks further away.

Rural areas are also much more highly likely to have poor Internet service. Urban areas can do their banking, purchasing and lots of other activities on the Internet that rural residents rely on the postal service for. Reduce mail delivery to urban areas where they are in much closer contact with the needed services from other sources.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on... have a cup while we check my mail.

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