Rural residents worried about losing post offices

Sunday, July 27th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Some rural Oklahoma residents are worried that a recommendation that could lead to fewer post offices could hurt their communities.

The President's Commission on the United States Postal Service, charged with studying the efficiency of the organization, adopted a report this month that called for repealing laws that limit the service's ability to close certain offices.

The subcommittee recommendation, adopted July 17, advocated forming a commission to lead the way to consolidating or closing processing and distribution sites.

The document also recommends offering services in other locations such as banks, grocery stores and convenience stores.

The final report is due on President Bush's desk by Thursday.

Jim Hoffsommer has fought nearly 25 years to keep the post office in Hillsdale. The recommendation could mean he has to continue the fight.

"We're probably pretty low on the totem pole as far as revenue and customers, but I think that's beside the point," he said. "I'm ready. I'm so passionate about this business."

Postal officials first proposed closing the office in 1979, Hoffsommer said. But he fought to keep the office, known as a gathering place in the town of 101 people.

Enid resident Bert Mackie said that increasing efficiency was a constant issue during his 10 years on the postal service board of governors.

With 10,000 to 15,000 of the nation's 35,000 post offices losing money, closure was a key topic as well, he said.

Congress often blocked efforts within the postal service to close small offices that were losing money or had few customers, he said.

"I've always looked at other ways to be more efficient than closing small post offices," Mackie said. "I'm sure there's some room for efficiency in that area, but I hope they don't overdo it.

"The identity of that town is with that post office," he said.

The subcommittee's report states that when the service determines that a "low activity" office is no longer necessary, the organization should try to sell the building and funnel money back into the service.

When there is no market for the building, the service should work with nonprofit agencies or local governments to use the building for the best purpose for residents, the report states.

The report does not define criteria that would make a post office low activity but further details are expected in the final report.

Treasury spokeswoman Betsy Holahan said Bush will review the report and determine which recommendations to send to Congress.

Atwood Mayor Glen Lively said although the post office in the town of 113 may not have many customers, losing it would hurt many residents.

"It's a vital service for a lot of these elderly people," he said. "These little old towns are fading fast, even without all of this."