Small, rural post offices might close

Gateway, Molina and other rural western Colorado communities could lose their post offices, as the financially struggling U.S. Postal Service considers closing thousands of post office locations to save money.

The Postal Service announced Tuesday it will review 3,653 post offices — roughly 12 percent of all locations — for possible closure. Those on the Western Slope that could be on the chopping block include Gateway in southwestern Mesa County; Molina on Grand Mesa; Lazear, which is near Hotchkiss; Ophir, which is near Telluride; and Paradox in western Montrose County. A total of 63 locations in Colorado are under review.

“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, open 24/7,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in a statement. “Our customers’ habits have made it clear that they no longer require a physical post office to conduct most of their postal business.”

Postal Service spokesman Al DeSarro said the agency is in the process of informing the post offices on the list of the possible closures. He said it will survey customers who receive route delivery or hold post office boxes, and it will host community meetings, a process that could take nine months before the Postal Service renders a decision.

The post offices targeted for potential shuttering have smaller amounts of workload and customer transactions, DeSarro said.

In place of the post offices, the Postal Service will partner with businesses and town halls to create what it calls village post offices from which stamps, flat-rate packages and other products could be sold.

“That way we could still save on our costs and keep the post office presence in that community,” he said. The village post offices wouldn’t offer all the services of a traditional post office.

As citizens change the way they communicate and transact business, the Postal Service has trimmed jobs, realigned letter carrier routes, consolidated facilities and instituted a number of other cuts to help save $12 billion the last four years, DeSarro said.

But the agency continues to lose money. The volume of first-class mail plummeted 28 percent over the past four years, while total mail volume dropped 20 percent over the last five years, DeSarro said.

The Postal Service is pushing Congress to reduce delivery to five days a week and loosen requirements that it fund retiree health benefits in advance, each of which could save the organization as much as $5 billion a year, DeSarro said.

“We’re continuing to face really tough financial challenges,” he said.


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