Stand in line at the United States Post Office at Lowry and Queen avenues N., you hear chatter about the possibility of closing it. Veteran employees keep up a banter with people who’ve maintained boxes there for years. One made a comment that taking away the stamp machine made the lines longer. Complain to Congressman Keith Ellison’s office, customers said as the employees wrote down the post office customer service number, 612-349-4401.
From Ellison’s office, staffer Mike Siebenaler said the 5th District Congressman has heard about stations all over the district, but “we have not seen a list that says Lowry is going to be closed. It may have been one that has a high operating cost vs. revenue, and those are the first to be looked at. They may be combined, or they may be reduced to operating as a counter in the back of a store.” The US Postal Service, USPS, is a federal agency but not tax-supported, and is looking at cutting costs throughout the nation.
“We have asked to be given a list once they have it, and time to gather public comment, before any decisions are made.” Ellison’s Minneapolis office phone is 612-522-1212, and email is accessible through a form on www.ellison.house.gov.
Pete Nowacki, public relations person for USPS, forwarded the web link to the preliminary list of stations being considered for replacement: about.usps.com/news/electronic-press-kits/expandedaccess/statelist.htm.
An item on the website states, “more and more (customers) are choosing to conduct their postal business online, on their smart phone and at their shopping destinations…we are taking the next step in right-sizing our retail network by studying approximately 3,700 retail offices to determine customer needs…We are introducing a retail-replacement option—Village Post Offices.” These would be operated by local businesses, such as pharmacies, grocery stores and other appropriate retailers, and would offer popular postal products and services such as stamps and flat-rate packaging.
Nowacki said there’s no fair way to determine if a station “makes money,” though in strictly revenue numbers (the criteria to get on the preliminary list) Lowry was low. “Revenues have fallen there, but not out of line with other places,” he said, when asked if the foreclosure crisis or tornado were factors. “We also take into consideration proximity to other stations and contract stations. VitaLife Pharmacy at 42nd and Fremont, and the Robbinsdale Branch (1.6 miles away), are the closest.
USPS owns the Lowry facility, and it also houses carrier operations. If it were decommissioned, the building would be sold, Nowacki said, “and that’s another factor that would be considered, the market conditions.” Nowacki said this is not the first contraction for the USPS. In Plymouth, for example, two years ago, they moved carrier operations out and sold that office, but then leased back a small portion as a retail facility.
USPS has conducted full analysis and held public meetings on closing “several dozen” small town stations that were announced at the end of July, and expect to start the study on the Lowry station within the next month or two, Nowacki said. “There will be a 60-day public comment period, and a public meeting held at some time during that period. Customers will be able to fill out a questionnaire and submit written comments. “If it’s decided that the station had to close, it would be posted for 30 days during which the decision could be appealed by any customer.”