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Guest column: Oppose further closures

Contributing writer

The United States Congress in 1970 enacted legislation known as the Post Office Re-Organization Act and President Richard Nixon signed the bill to take effect on July 1, 1971. The legislation established the U. S. Postal Service to replace the previous U. S. Post Office Department, at the time a cabinet level agency of the government. The enactment of this legislation took the postal service out of politics and formed a semi-quasi corporation with a board of governors to direct the organization, a board similar to the board of directors of any large corporation in the country.

As part of this reorganization act, Congress recognized the need for universal service and protection of the many small post offices serving the rural areas of the country. As part of what became Title 39, United States Code 5404, Specific Powers, the act spells out the procedures the Postal Service must follow before closing any post office. This includes a public notice of the closure intent, a 60 day comment period, a public meeting of the citizens of the effected community and a 30 day appeal period by the citizens to the Postal Regulatory Commission if the decision is to close.

Section 101(b) states that the Postal Service shall provide a maximum degree of effective and regular postal service to rural areas, communities, and small towns where post offices are not self-sustaining. The local post office is the face of the government and the heart of a small community. They provide an identity and federal presence to thousands of towns and communities, especially rural ones.

For 40 years now, the rules on proposed closures has worked well. Citizens of threatened towns have the protection provided by the reorganization act and the Postal Service has the means to actually close a post office if warranted, In recent years two Carbon and Emery County post offices were threatened with a change in their status. Helper proposed to be consolidated with the Price post office and Orangeville with the Castle Dale office. The citizens of these communities preserved the status of their post offices by taking action provided them by the reorganization act and warded off the proposals for consolidation

Now, today, legislation is being considered in Congress that would allow the Postal Service to close thousands of post offices that serve rural areas and small towns. Senate Bill (S-3831) would allow the post offices to be closed that do not make a profit. The bill would essentially eliminate all the provisions of Title 39 in regards to the closing of post offices. In the House of Representatives, Utah's own Rep. Jason Chaffetz has introduced a bill that would create an independent panel which would decide which post offices should be closed. He likens the panel to the commission of several years ago to decide which military bases should be closed. Chaffetz' proposal is an invitation to politics as usual. Areas with considerable political clout would weigh in, much as happened in the military base closings.

As to closing post offices not making a profit, there is a quirk in such a statement in the manner the Postal Service credits revenue among post offices. Those large post offices which accept large mailings, particularly the advertising mail, for distribution nation wide are credited with the revenue generated by these mailings. As these large advertising mailings are distributed to the many small rural post offices, it is the personnel of these offices obligation to see that the mailings are delivered to the customers of their office, be it by city carrier, rural delivery routes or post office box delivery. A chore requiring time, but no revenue credit to the delivery offices, only to the large offices accepting the material for mailing.

Post Office closings will not yield significant savings. According to the Postal Regulatory Commission closing all small or rural post offices would only save seven-tenths of one percent of the Postal Service's operating budget. In contrast, the Office of Inspector General Audit showed that the Postal Service should consolidate its own management structure, consolidate and/or the elimination of area and district offices. The Postal Service maintains eight area offices and 74 district offices in a country where there are only 50 states. According to the Postal Inspector General this would save $894 million over the next decade without impacting service to the pubic.

May I urge citizens of Carbon and Emery Counties, Cleveland, Elmo, Clawson, Ferron, Emery, Huntington, Helper, East Carbon, Sunnyside, Wellington, Green River, do not hesitate in contacting Senators Orrin Hatch and Robert Bennett as well as Representatives Rob Bishop, Jim Matheson and Jason Chaffetz asking that they oppose these bills that I have pointed out.

The post office you save be your very own. Post offices are the most visible and respected face of the federal government.

Walt Borla is the former post master at the Helper Post Office.

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