By Kristen Miller
DARWIN, MN Darwin residents gathered at city hall Nov. 6 to hear about anticipated changes at their post office, and share input.
Four weeks prior, residents in the 55324 zip code received what the US Postal Service calls a Post Plan customer survey to “give community members an opportunity to preserve their post office with realigned hours,” said Karen Keller, Jordan postmaster, during the public meeting.
Keller explained that since the postal service is not tax-supported, its operational costs come from the sales of stamps and other products.
She noted that due to the Internet, 40 billion transactions have been lost that were once going through the postal service. This includes bill-pays, e-mails, and other transactions done online.
To helped fray costs, the US Postal Service has already frozen executive salaries, consolidated mail processing plants, and eliminated buildings by consolidating work in one location where there used to be two, Keller explained. However, they have chosen not to close post offices, but rather reduce hours of operation.
A new structure for reducing hours is based on a tiered system depending on the city’s population and volume of mail, in which hours of operation have been reduced to either two-, four-, or six-hour days.
The option for the Darwin Post Office would reduce hours and stagger window and service time, making it a six-hour post office.
Currently, the post office service window is open seven hours each weekday, from 7:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., and closed one hour, from noon to 1 p.m., for lunch. The lobby hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The proposed change would eliminate one hour for the service window, by adding to the current lunch hour closing. Therefore, the opening and closing hours would remain the same, but the window would be closed from 11:45 a.m. to 1:45 for lunch. Lobby hours would not change.
Lisa Bapp, officer in charge at the Darwin post office, said customers were mostly upset by confusion caused from the survey that was sent out.
Residents were given four options to chose from:
1. Keep the office open based on actual office workload.
2. Conduct a discontinuance study for the office and offer roadside mailbox delivery.
3. Conduct a discontinuance study for the office and find a suitable alternative location operated by a contractor, usually at a local business, to offer stamps and flat-rate products.
4. Conduct a discontinuance study for the office and provide post office box service via another nearby post office.
Of the 583 surveys mailed, 220 responses were received. The majority, 80 percent, chose the realignment of hours, while 10 percent chose the delivery option.
The final decision whether to reduce hours will be made next week.
It was also noted that changes would not take effect until after the holiday season, most likely sometime in January 2014.
Darwin may also be considered for a 24-hour lobby. It was noted that this option has been added to some post offices in which reduced hours have been implemented as an added convenience to customers.
Following the meeting, residents in attendance confirmed they were pleased with the outcome.