Post office closure plans grind to halt

The U.S. Postal Service’s plan to shutter 53 post offices in Colorado and hundreds of others elsewhere in the nation is on hold, at least for now, a Colorado official said Friday.

David Rupert, spokesman for the Postal Service’s Colorado operations, said the service had hoped to lower the flags at the post offices by May 15, but because Congress has not acted on its request to make changes to its service, including ending Saturday delivery, it has postponed those closures indefinitely.

Rupert said it’s unknown when federal lawmakers will act on its bill to allow those changes, adding there are dozens of amendments already tacked onto the measure, some of which have nothing to do with mail delivery.

“With all the stuff in the Senate swirling in the wind, volcanoes in Indonesia, the lunar tide and Mars hurling through space, who knows,” Rupert said. “There’s so much going on out there. This bill that’s in front of Congress now has 39 amendments, including one to cut off funding for Egypt.”

The Postal Service announced plans late last year to close some post offices and consolidate others as a stopgap measure to stop the bleeding in its finances. Rupert said it’s losing about $30 million a day right now.

To help stave off that red ink, the service planned to close 677 offices nationwide, including 63 in Colorado. It has since taken 10 off that Colorado list, including the post offices in Gateway, Rico in Dolores County and Maybell, which is in Moffat County west of Craig.

Seventeen of the remaining 53 Colorado offices still on the closure list are on the Western Slope, including Lazear near Hotchkiss, Molina west of Collbran, Ophir south of Telluride, Redvale west of Norwood, Bedrock west of Uravan and Egnar southwest of Naturita.

Rupert said he blames much of the Postal Service’s financial woes on competition and federally mandated rules it must follow.

He said the service has lost much of its mail business to direct electronic billing and payments.

Part of the bill pending before Congress would allow it to deliver mail only five days a week and stop having to “prefund” future retiree health benefits. He said federal law requires the service to fund those benefits 75 years into the future.

“We’re paying $5.5 billion a year essentially for people who haven’t been born yet,” Rupert said. “When we’re struggling with volume and all these other mandates, its an onerous requirement.”

One of the amendments on the bill was offered by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. That amendment would delay any post office closures until after this year’s elections. The senator said that is important in states planning all-mail ballots, adding he’s concerned the closures might delay mail ballots.

Rupert, however, said the closure won’t impact anyone’s ability to send or receive mail.

“They’re going to continue to get their mail delivered to them,” Rupert said. “Even if we close one of these little post offices, say Ophir, which has 38 boxes, we’re going to deliver the mail. We’re going to put it in a centralized box right at the same location. We just won’t have a postmaster there.”


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