Aberdeen Faces Possible Post Office Closure

Looks like Yankton isn’t the only South Dakota city facing a possible post office closure …

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Aberdeen’s downtown station could be cut

BY Scott Waltman, swaltman@aberdeennews.com

Published on Sunday, November 14, 2010

In an effort to save money, the U.S. Postal Service is again contemplating
closing Aberdeen’s downtown post office.

Notices about the possible closure have been posted at the downtown postal
station at 102 Fourth Ave. S.E. and the main post office at 1202 S. Fifth
St. The Postal service is accepting written comments about the option until
Dec. 6.

Julie Johnson of the economic development group Absolutely! Aberdeen said
she and others would like to meet with the postal official before
Thanksgiving about the prospect of closing the downtown post office. She
wants people to be able to learn more about the potential closure and still
have time to submit their comments.

Johnson said she is working with local representatives of South Dakota’s
congressional delegation to try to arrange the meeting.

Pete Nowacki, a spokesman for the postal service, said the agency is
continually looking for ways to save money. The postal service lost $8.5
billion in fiscal year 2010, and more losses are projected in the future. He
said he understands that local residents, particularly people who live and
work downtown, have concerns about the possible closure. But, he said, the
postal service doesn’t get tax money, so it needs to look for efficiencies.

Since 2006, the amount of mail sent has decreased by 20 percent, Nowacki
said. That means less revenue. He said the postal service reduced work hours
by 17 million last year to cut down on expenses. The agency has also
eliminated 100,000 employees in recent years, he said.

Nowacki said he thinks that the Postal Service could effectively handle the
needs for all of Aberdeen with just the main post office. But, he said, no
decision has been made, and no time frame is in place.

Johnson said she’s been discouraged by the lack of communication from the
postal service. Officials are hard to contact, and the posted notice allows
comments to be sent only by mail – there’s no listed e-mail or phone number,
she said.

If the downtown postal station were to close, more post office boxes would
need to be at the main post office, Johnson said. There would also be a need
for more parking, she said.

Nowacki agreed that, should the downtown site be closed, more post office
boxes would be needed at the main office. And, he said, the postal service
would try to ensure that downtown customers got to keep the same box number
and size. He said that the need for increased parking might also have to be
addressed.

An option for downtown residents and businesses who now pick up their mail
downtown would be to have mail delivered, he said.

Those who want to continue using a post office box would be able to pick up
their mail by 8:15 a.m. at the main post office as opposed to 9 a.m.
downtown, he said.

The possibility of closing the downtown postal station has been discussed
before. In 2008, Johnson and others met with a postal official in Aberdeen
and asked questions. Getting answers to valid questions seems only fair
given that the Postal Service is again considering a closure, she said.

Jeff Gohringer, a spokesman for Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., said the senator
will make sure the concerns of Aberdeen residents are known by postal
officials before a decision is made.

Technically, Gohringer said, the downtown office is considered a “postal
station.” That means the time frame for accepting public comments is 30 days
as opposed to 60 days as it would for a formal post office.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said he is also aware of concerns about the
potential closure.

³I have worked with officials in the Aberdeen community in the past to
facilitate meetings to address issues concerning the U.S. Postal Service and
will be happy to assist in obtaining information or establish communication
on this issue as well,” Thune said in an e-mail to the American News.

One local resident registered a concern about the placement of the notice
about potential closure. It was by post office boxes in the downtown
station, not the office. Nowacki said that more notices will be put up.

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