The exact future of the Stitzer Post Office was not made clear at an open forum that lasted over two hours Monday night at the community’s Town Hall. Whether the office will be closed or not is unknown at this time. However, the pride of the small village was evident, as about 50 citizens showed up to support the retention of their local postal services.
Sue Janczak, Lakeland District manager of Post Office operations, explained to the crowd about the USPS’ plans of trying to find ways to provide services to customers while also attempting to find some savings. Because it is earning very little money—less than two hours of work per day—and costing the federal system about $50,000 per year, the Stitzer Post Office is one of 3,600 offices the USPS is considering closing. Currently, a feasibility study is being conducted on the matter before any action is taken.
“I’m sure you’ve seen everything in the news about the condition of the Postal Service. A lot of it has to do with first-class mail volume, such as letters, bills and cards. Our ‘bread and butter,’ first-class mail, has declined 50 percent in the last 10 years and the projection is for it to continue to decline,” Janczak said. “A lot of people are paying their bills online or by way of auto payments. This is a similar situation to what GM was facing a few years ago. We have to make drastic changes to survive.”
Janczak said the USPS has lost 200,000 jobs in the past 10 years because of the downhill trends of the mail industry. In most cases, she said, workers retired and they weren’t replaced.
“As we keep on having these losses, we have to try to find some savings,” she stated. “We’re not just picking on small towns. We’ve already closed stations in cities like Racine and Green Bay, and that’s been happening across the country.”
Travis Tranel, 49th Assembly representative, was in attendance at the meeting and gave his opinion about the Postal Service’s situation. As a political representative of 6,000 rural residents, he said it seems as though small towns are always experiencing cuts first.
“It seems to me that a lot of the issues for the Postal Service are coming from the costs of pensions and health care. I would like to see those issues be addressed first before we close all these post offices,” Tranel said. “It doesn’t seem like a long-term viable solution to me.”
Janczak said that the Postal Service is looking at other options nationwide in order to realize savings. She said the USPS has considered breaking off its employee benefits from the federal system and changing to a more private offering. The USPS has also been considering going from a six-day delivery system to five days.
Some of the residents in the audience questioned the loss of convenience and speedy delivery that a five-day delivery system could present.
Janczak pointed out that these are only possible changes at this time and that nothing has been set in stone.
In recent years, the Stitzer Post Office has cost an average of $75,000 per year to be open, and Janczak said most of those dollars include salaries. The revenue for the office amounts to about $25,000 per year. If the office were to close, Officer-in-Charge Lavon Foyt would be offered another postal position in the area, though it wasn’t clear what that could be.
Many residents at the meeting discussed their concern about losing that personal connection and one-on-one service provided by the local postal staff. They seemed worried about losing a facility that serves as a community gathering place, a school bus stop, and a location to learn about events and the well-being of their fellow citizens. Also, as a village that’s already lost many businesses that were once thriving, some shared their feelings that by closing the post office, Stitzer could lose more of its identity and pride.
“I know that for small towns, your post office is very important to you,” the operations manager said. “Just because you don’t have a post office doesn’t mean you can’t still have your town.”
Janczak said the lack of postal activity at the Stitzer Post Office was another consideration the USPS is taking into account.
“We did a study of the window transactions occurring in Stitzer over a two-week period, and we found an average of 8.9 minutes per day that the office is handling window traffic,” Janczak explained. “That’s not enough to warrant it to stay open.”
When asked about the true fate of the Stitzer Post Office, Janczak wouldn’t officially confirm its closure, yet she laid out some options for continued service if the office should be closed.
Options include (1) putting Cluster Box Units at various locations throughout the village or (2) erecting individual mailboxes at the end of residents’ driveways. CBUs hold 16 locking boxes and a parcel locker where box holders could pick up packages. (A key would be placed in the person’s box and that key would unlock the locker.) If individual mailboxes were considered an issue for the local snowplow crews, three or four could be grouped together on one post near those homes.
A third (3) option, which seemed to be the most preferred among the crowd (aside from keeping the office open as it is now), would be the creation of a Village Post Office. This alternative would establish a contract between the USPS and a willing business within Stitzer. The store owner would rent space out for the post office boxes and a priority mail display case. Flat-rate packages could be sent from the location and stamps would be sold there as well.
Janczak said this option would cost an estimated $800-$2,000 per year.
In any case, all Stitzer residents would have the opportunity to erect their own mailboxes and have them serviced by a rural carrier. The mileage and pay for the carrier, in addition to the cost of the possible contract station, would be significantly less than the cost of keeping the Stitzer Post Office open, Janczak said.
Also, a mail collection box would remain in the community, and Stitzer would be able to retain its name and zip code.
“We know that’s important to you,” Janczak said. “There are already a number of customers in Stitzer who get their mail on the street. With street delivery, you can still buy stamps through your carrier. Plus, Fennimore is only five miles away, and the USPS has considered the amount of people who are working and traveling to other towns to buy groceries and get gas anyway. There would be the option of buying your stamps and mailing packages in Fennimore.”
After a couple hours of responding to questions, including some emotional interpretations of what could be happening to the Stitzer Post Office, Janczak laid out the next steps the USPS will be taking.
All the questions from the forum were written in public record Monday night. Janczak said the Postal Service will now review those questions and write a proposal regarding how it would like to proceed. Local citizens will have the chance to fill out comment forms. Then, the proposal will be sent to the USPS headquarters, where a “yes” or “no” decision will be made. That conclusion will be posted for 30 days, during which time Stitzer residents can appeal to the Postal Rate Commission, before a final announcement about the exact future of the Stitzer Post Office is made.
Anyone who was unable to make Monday night’s forum or who has further questions or comments about the issue, may contact Janczak at (608) 246-1259.