Senate Dems seek to protect rural postal delivery

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today introduced legislation to improve rural mail service and delivery, increase protections for rural post offices, and make sure postal employees are treated fairly in North Dakota and across the country.

Building on what she has heard from individuals from across North Dakota, including through her Fix My Mail initiative, Heitkamp – a member of the Senate committee overseeing the Postal Service – introduced legislation to specifically address the postal concerns and challenges in rural America. Since launching her grassroots Fix My Mail initiative in January 2014, Heitkamp has received stories from more than 200 North Dakotans about issues they have encountered with delayed mail delivery and poor service from the U.S. Postal Service, and she has led efforts to make sure the Postal Service better works for all rural communities. Earlier this year, she brought together the first bipartisan meeting of Senators from rural states to speak with the U.S. Postmaster General.

A vocal advocate for rural America, Heitkamp’s bill would make sure rural states and communities are no longer disproportionately impacted by cuts to mail service. Over the past few years, communities in rural America, including North Dakota, have faced excessive closures of post offices and mail processing facilities, which is increasing delivery times, reducing service standards, and hurting the Postal Service workforce.

In the Dakotas, only about 65 percent of non-local mail arrived on time within three to five days last quarter, which is about 30 percent below the Postal Service’s own annual goal. And from 2001 to 2013, nearly 400 post offices closed across the country, hurting mail service, particularly in rural communities.

“Mail is a critical lifeline in rural America, and all North Dakotans deserve access to high-quality mail delivery and service, regardless of where they live. But in too many places in North Dakota and rural America, that has not been happening,” said Heitkamp. “Through my Fix My Mail initiative, I’ve heard from folks from across our state that they aren’t receiving their mail and prescription drugs on time, or their local post office has had its operating hours significantly reduced. That can’t be the way the Postal Service operates. My commonsense bill aims to address the needs of rural families and postal employees, and will make an honest difference in rural communities across North Dakota. This isn’t the final step to fixing all the problems with the Postal Service, but any effort to do so needs to include these kinds of protections and support for rural America, and I’ll keep building support so we can meet the postal needs of all Americans.”

Heitkamp’s legislation would tackle rural postal concerns and make meaningful changes to better protect rural communities by:

  • Improving Mail Service Standards – The bill would make sure mail reaches its destination faster by restoring stronger service standards, and place a two-year moratorium on the closure of additional mail processing plants.
  • Meeting the Needs of Rural Postal Customers – The bill would preserve six-day mail delivery, instead of being added annually in appropriations legislation as it has in recent years.
  • Protecting Rural Post Offices – The bill would protect rural post offices from closures, require specific procedures for reducing operating hours at rural post offices, and enable communities to formally petition the Postal Service to reverse closures or reductions in hours.
  • Improve Postal Employee Morale – The bill would establish a Chief Morale Officer within the Postal Service to oversee working conditions, staffing, communication, and training efforts.

Joining Heitkamp in introducing her Rural Postal Act were Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Gary Peters (D-MI). For a one-page summary of the bill, click here. For reactions on the bill from the postal community, click here.

Heitkamp has long led efforts to make significant improvements to mail delivery and service throughout North Dakota’s rural communities, including:

  • Standing up for Rural Postal Customers – After sharing stories she received through her Fix My Mail initiative with the Postal Service, Heitkamp successfully received commitments from the agency to improve mail service and delivery throughout North Dakota, including keeping more hours of operation at nearly 30 rural post offices in the state. Last Congress, Heitkamp also successfully gained bipartisan support for two amendments to postal reform legislation to protect rural service, improve oversight of service changes in the Postal Service and develop a strategy to better support postal employees in rural America.
  • Pushing for Accountability and Transparency from the Postal Service – Last March, as part of her Fix My Mail initiative, Heitkamp requested a Postal Service Office of Inspector General review of postal standards and employee issues in North Dakota. The report found that for the past several years, the Postal Service failed to process and deliver mail in a timely fashion, lacked retail windows to meet demand, did not have a plan to address rapid population growth, overworked employees, and rarely met national service standards in the state.
  • Leading Efforts to Protect the Postal Needs of Rural Communities – In May, Heitkamp brought together the first bipartisan meeting of solely rural-state Senators to meet with U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan about the impacts of mail processing facility closures and service standard reductions, and secured a commitment from the Postal Service to work better to meet the needs of rural America. Later that month, Heitkamp co-hosted a Senate roundtable discussion on rural postal issues, calling on leaders in the postal community to work with her to protect delivery and service in rural America.

 

Video: Frustrated residents of Texas town commute for mail after post office shuts down

CRANFILLS GAP – People in Cranfills Gap are tired of commuting to Clifton to go to the post office after theirs was shut down last month.

U.S. Postal Service officials won’t do into detail but say it was shutdown for “health and safety issues with the building” however locals say it was closed after a woman stepped through the floorboards.

Whatever the reason, people like Sandra Hartley say something needs to be done soon. “A lot of people mail a lot of stuff from around here and then I get stamps all the time,” says Hartley.

The only post office in town was shutdown in May, locking more than one hundred people out of their P.O. boxes. “This is a busy post office, always got people in and out of it,” says Hartley. We’re a small town but we use it a lot.” Continue reading

PRC rejects Careywood closing appeal- Goldway calls decision “probably illegal”

prcIn a decision issued today, the Postal Regulatory Commission ruled that it does not have the authority to stop the US Postal Service from closing the Careywood, Idaho post office. Former PRC chair Ruth Goldway was the sole dissenting voice. Goldway suggested that the decision was “probably illegal”, and that under the majority’s reasoning, any rural post office could be closed as long as customers could access the Internet. Continue reading

USPS puts nearly all remaining consolidations and closings on hold

May 22, 2015- The USPS announced significant changes to the Phase II-2015 USPS Network Rationalization Consolidation initiative. With the exception of the Houston P&DC and Queens P&DC, the USPS has suspended all remaining closures and consolidations to a date to be determined. The National Office of the NPMHU has requested a meeting to discuss the implications of this decision. Additional information will be disseminated as it becomes available.

Access the updated closure/consolidation list.

Access the USPS RIBBS Network Rationalization website.

Source: NEARLY ALL REMAINING CLOSURES AND CONSOLIDATIONS PUT ON HOLD – National Postal Mail Handlers Union

Video: Former TV star’s bankruptcy may cost town its post office

We’ve seen post offices close because of asbestos contamination, mold, and spider infestations, but this is the first time we can recall an office closing because a slightly obscure former TV star went bankrupt. The tiny Harford PA post office was bought in 2004 by actor Bronson Pinchot, who appeared on the sitcom “Perfect Strangers” in the 80’s. It was one of several properties, including a Federal style mansion, that Pinchot intended to renovate. Some of the properties appeared on his short-lived series on the DIY Network, “The Bronson Pinchot Project“. Continue reading

Video: Kansas City postal workers rally to keep post offices open

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Postal workers nationwide and in Kansas City are fighting to keep your local post office open.

The United States Postal Service plans to reduce hours and close branches nationwide. No branches in Kansas City are currently set to close, but with 82 processing centers set to close around the country, including one in Springfield, Mo., mail service will be slowed.

If you’re hoping to mail a letter or bill, it probably won’t get there overnight. Instead, it may take two to three days to arrive.

Postal Service employees are infuriated because they don’t want to work fewer hours or see offices close. On Thursday they’ll rally to keep things as they are. Continue reading

USPS may have a buyer for Houston PO

The Houston Chronicle reports that the USPS may have found a buyer for the Houston Post Office, but the agency declined to provide details as negotiations are ongoing. The 5 story building, on a 16 acre site, has been on the market for several years. Retail operations are set to end this coming Friday. While the building is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places because it’s more than fifty years old, there doesn’t seem to be much local concern about the building, a typical 1960’s “brutalist” office block.

After at least three attempts to sell the site at 401 Franklin, the property went back on the market earlier this year after a deal to sell if fell through. Spokeswoman Dionne Montague said the most recent bid solicitation period has closed and the postal service is “in the process of negotiations,” which may be finalized by the end of the year.

Save the Post Office featured the Houston PO in a story last week.

Source: Downtown post office sale under negotiations – Prime Property

Senators from rural states meet with PMG on plant closings, service cuts

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Building on her efforts to improve mail delivery and service in rural communities in North Dakota and across the country, U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp brought together the first bipartisan meeting of solely Senators from rural states to speak with the U.S. Postmaster General about the impact that mail processing facility closures and service standard reductions have had on families and communities throughout rural America.

Heitkamp, a member of the Senate Committee which oversees the U.S. Postal Service, brought together U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Jerry Moran (R-KS) to raise awareness about declining postal standards and the effects of closing mail processing facilities in rural communities across their states with U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan. Continue reading

Video: Brown recluse spiders force Fisherville KY Post Office to close temporarily

FISHERVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Brown recluse spiders are causing the Fisherville Post Office to temporarily close its doors. United States Postal Service spokesperson David Walton says spiders were found during a recent inspection.

“We didn’t want to take any chances so we thought the best course of action here was to close the building until the situation remedied,” said Walton. “We do have an exterminator involved. They are setting traps.”

Walton says the spiders are drawn to quiet places.

“Any place that is dark and quiet that doesn’t get a lot of traffic and there are areas of a post office that are like that,” he said. Continue reading