More post office cutbacks looming for area towns

TITONKA – Residents of the Kossuth County community of Titonka learned Tuesday evening that the customer service window at their local post office will be open four hours a day on weekdays, starting in October.

The post office at 259 Main St. will be open just 45 minutes on Saturday mornings.

Thomas Allen, a manager of post office operations for the United States Postal Service, told seven people at a public meeting that the new weekday hours will be 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

He said the Saturday hours will be 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.

Those proposed hours could be changed before October, he said.

The lobby where the individual mail boxes are located will remain open 24 hours a day, Allen added.

”We really do wish that we could stay open the full time,” he said.

The cutbacks discussed Tuesday in Titonka are just the latest in a series of reductions the United States Postal Service is making to deal with a severe cash crunch.

In 2011, Postal Service leaders proposed shuttering thousands of smaller post offices across the nation. A year later, they relented and proposed to keep those post offices open while reducing the number of hours that the customer service window is open. However, access to the mailboxes in those smaller post offices remained unchanged.

Beginning in November 2012, customer service window hours were cut at post offices in Badger, Barnum, Clare Duncombe, Goldfield, Harcourt, Lohrville, Vincent, Woolstock and several other smaller cities in the region.

In addition to Titonka, the latest round of reductions will affect post offices in Bode, Bradgate, Curlew, Dakota City Gilmore City, Hardy, Jolley, Knierim, Laurens, Moorland, Pomeroy, Rutland and Thor.

Allen said the hours that a customer service window is open can be extended if that location shows strong revenue growth. He said the revenue at the Titonka Post Office is ”pretty healthy” for one that is being reduced to having its customer service window open four hours a day.

”The No. 1 thing the community needs to do is buy their stamps here and mail their packages here,” he said.

The post offices in smaller cities are not the only facilities being affected by Postal Service reductions.

For decades, the mail for 75 post offices in north central Iowa was sorted in Fort Dodge. In late 2011, that work was moved out of the postal facility at 3440 Maple Drive and shifted to Des Moines.

Allen attributed the financial woes of the Postal Service to two factors. he said the service is required to pay for retiree health benefits in advance at a cost of $2 billion a year. He said the service is the only federal agency that’s required to do that.

He added that the amount of first class mail has been dropping by about 27 percent annually, in large part because of people communicating and doing business online.

”We understand that the first class letter volume isn’t coming back,” he said.

Allen said the Postal Service is aggressively pursuing more package delivery business.