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Policy: Budgets & Deficits

Smaller towns adjusting to post office changes

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Photo - Heath Mallory, general manager of Western Iowa Telephone,  stands outside the post office in Lawton, Iowa, Thursday April 24, 2014. With post office closing at 2 p.m. on weekdays Mallory says it is harder to get mailings out before closing.  (AP Photo/The Sioux City Journal, Tim Hynds)
Heath Mallory, general manager of Western Iowa Telephone, stands outside the post office in Lawton, Iowa, Thursday April 24, 2014. With post office closing at 2 p.m. on weekdays Mallory says it is harder to get mailings out before closing. (AP Photo/The Sioux City Journal, Tim Hynds)
News,Business,Budgets and Deficits,Postal Service

LAWTON, Iowa (AP) — Small-town residents across Iowa and Nebraska are adjusting to their local post offices' reduced hours of business, with some open just four hours a day.

The U.S. Postal Service has reduced hours at more than 7,000 post offices nationwide and consolidated 143 mail processing centers to reduce costs as it tries to balance its budget, the Sioux City Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1nSyxLa ).

The post office in Lawton now closes at 2 p.m. on weekdays and is only open for an hour Saturdays. Western Iowa Telephone general manager Heath Mallory says that means it's harder to get mailings out before the office closes. His business averages about 4,000 pieces of mail monthly.

"It has ramped up our need to plan a little better. It requires us to do quite a bit more planning with anything mail-related," he said.

The postal service's reduction in hours grew out of feedback from customers, who said they'd prefer less access to the local post office than closures, said Richard Watkins with the USPS in Des Moines.

"There are many communities that would like us to leave everything the same way forever, but that's just not realistic," Watkins said. "We have to face the reality there aren't as many people mailing as many letters, particularly first-class mail."

Last year, the agency lost $5 billion — an improvement over the $15.9 billion in 2012. But the Postal Service recorded a $354 million loss in the first three months of 2014. Postal officials have been pressing Congress for permission to end Saturday delivery, and proposed increasing the price of a stamp to 49 cents.

Mayor Dave Amick of Bronson, Iowa, said he's glad the town kept its post office even if it's harder for people who work full time to get there. The post office is open four hours on weekdays and just an hour and a half on Saturdays.

"For my wife and I, because we're retired, those hours accommodate us pretty well," Amick said. "As a community, we're pleased we were able to keep our post office even at that diminished capacity. I think everybody's pretty much adjusted to it, and we move on."

The change in post office hours made it hard for Hot Heels, Inc., a rodeo calf-roping dummy and equipment company to fill orders it receives in the afternoons in Hinton, Iowa.

"Before the hours change, we could send an order out the same day," said Jennifer Copenhaver, who operates the business with her husband. They now use a private parcel company for most of their shipments.

Watkins said no further hour reductions or post office closures are planned, but as revenues continue to decline, those options could be reconsidered.

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Information from: Sioux City Journal, http://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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