Possible post office closing creates big uproar from little town

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October 20, 2011 - 7:00pm

Postal Service Regional Manager Dawn Byers had no problem putting it bluntly.

"So why are we looking at offices for discontinuance? Mostly, because we're broke."

It was statement that didn't seem to come by surprise to anyone in the room.

The majority of Morse Bluff's 135 residents crowded into the small legion club about 15 miles west of Fremont. Armed with question and concerns, residents waited patiently as Byers explained why the United States Postal Service was eyeing their town's office for a shutdown.

Photo by Ben Bohall, NET News

Local residents, including children, remain outspoken against the decision by the United States Postal Service to survey the local post office for shutdown.

Photo by Ben Bohall, NET News

Most residents were quick to sign petition forms immediately upon entering the small legion club.

Photo by Ben Bohall, NET News

Signs similar to this one were posted throughout Morse Bluff as a rallying call.

"Well we've all lost a workload," explained Byers,"What we're trying to do is bring the workload from smaller offices into larger offices, to bring those larger offices to the workload that they were used to doing three years ago, and what they're getting paid for. We're looking at offices, looking at the workload in offices and seeing if maybe if we eliminate some offices In the last 4 years, we've saved 20 billion dollars just looking at that"

And according to Byers, the revenue cap for reviewing the office's status was anything less than $27,000, a mark Morse Bluff fell short of by $3,000 for 2010.

"The 27 is just a cap, it's just a starting part. They had to start someplace, and they picked a couple of indicators. If they had less than $27,000, than they had a reduced customer demand. So, that's what they looked at: it wasn't about whether if she (Morse Bluff's Postmaster) made a profit or not, it was the reduced customer demand .because she doesn't have the customer visits anymore."

As Byers continued, the faces of Morse Bluff's residents reflected both confusion and frustration. Those frustrations were echoed by Noelle Hruza, a Morse Bluff native.

"Have you given any consideration or thought to those of us who are disabled or old, or don't drive in the winter months?.....This scares me, I'm going to be honest with you. Talk about no passion "

Morse Bluff is not alone. The town is only one of 111 locations in Nebraska, and 3,700 nationwide currently being studied by the Postal Regulatory Commission for possible discontinuance.

So how did the country arrive at this point: A once thriving nationwide postal service on the brink of collapse? According to Byers, the USPS has been on the decline since 2001, predominantly due to the popularity of electronic communication. That includes more people paying bills online, sending emails, and interacting on social networking sites. Byer says that so far in 201, mail volume has fallen off by 25 percent. Current projections by the USPS point to the agency posting losses of about 10.5 billion dollars for this year.

If that weren't bad enough, another dark cloud looms: a 5.5 billion dollar payment for worker health benefits. Although that payment was due September 30th, President Barack Obama extended the deadline by 90 days. The Postal service is now left to find ways to offset the cost or request another extension. Either way, according to Byers, the outlook is a bleak one.

"I don't know how we're going to make that payment," Byers said. "If we have to make the payment we'll be broke in October, which is now. If we don't have to make the payment we'll probably be completely broke, not meeting payroll till the end of July and August of 2012."

Byers assured the audience that the USPS is making progress in dealing with the challenges it faces now and in the near future. But for the 9 towns throughout the state whose offices have already received notices of final determination to close, that progress has been costly. Those towns are Alexandria, Colon, Crab Orchard, Dunbar, Garland, Ithaca, Rulo, and South Bend. Those locations will still receive mail via rural delivery service.

As the meeting drew to a close at the small Legion club in Morse Bluff, residents thanked Dawn Byers for taking the time to hear their concerns and to explain why the small town's post office is facing a very uncertain future. But one item still remained on the agenda for the evening: an appeal letter written and read aloud by resident Jerrine Racek In her letter, Racek explained how much the post office means to the little town of Morse Bluff and that she hopes the Postal Regularity Commission will consider that above all else.

"We fervently ask for your compassionate consideration when you review our concerns and comments," read Racek. "We already lost our school and a loss of our post office would be a nail in the coffin for our community."


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