Rural Iowa post offices face tough decisions

Silver City is also on the list of western Iowa towns with post offices that are slated to be reviewed.

UNDERWOOD, Iowa — The Underwood Post Office is one of many in southwest Iowa that face reduced hours as the U.S. Postal Service continues to adjust to a changing marketplace.

Post office hours are slated to be reduced by one to six per day. A study will help determine the hours of operation.

“I think the post office is vital to this area,” Kathy Darrington said Monday afternoon while on duty at the Underwood location. “We have Jack Link's (beef jerky shipping and receiving center) and a growing city to stay open for. A lot of people use this location. We stay busy.”

The Postal Service is soliciting input from cities and towns on changes to post offices. The changes are part of the national POST Plan, which will review more than 13,000 post offices, chosen based on workload and retail business, that could see reduced hours.

In Underwood, area residents returned a survey asking if they'd prefer to keep the post office open but with realigned hours or have the postal service perform a “discontinue study” and design alternate options for post office services. The town post office will go to six-hour workdays unless 60 percent or more vote for the study.

Community meetings are being scheduled in towns facing changes. Schleswig had a meeting on Nov. 8; the town post office now operates six hours per day, down from eight. Earling hosted a community meeting Monday, and one in Mineola is scheduled for 6 tonight at Tobey Jack's Mineola Steakhouse.

Underwood's meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Jan. 15 at UMBA Hall.

Brian Sperry, a Postal Service spokesman, said the Postal Service lost $15.9 billion in fiscal year 2012. Total mail volume is down 25 percent since 2006, from 238 billion to 160 billion pieces of mail, while first-class is down 33 percent since 2002, from 102.4 billion to 68.7 billion.

“Business as usual is not an option,” Sperry said.

Rural post offices are vital to many communities, evidenced by the public (and politicians') outcry when the Postal Service proposed closing 3,700 low-revenue offices last spring.

Other western Iowa towns with post offices slated to be reviewed include Carson, Emerson, Hastings, Elk Horn, Dunlap, Defiance, Hancock, Lewis, Minden, Panama, Persia, Pigsah, Portsmouth, Shelby, Silver City and Stanton.

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