Postal Service rejects Phippsburg appeal

South Routt post office among 80 facing closure in Colorado

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— The Postal Regulatory Commission has denied the appeals of five Phippsburg residents who object to the pending closure of the Phippsburg Post Office.

The post office in unincorporated Phippsburg, four miles south of Oak Creek, is among 80 in Colorado facing closure as the U.S. Postal Service seeks to cut expenses nationally and offset a portion of its $10 billion budget deficit. The Postal Service announced in December 2011 that the closure of the post offices in Colorado would be delayed until May 15.

Phippsburg residents John Bergstrom, Michael Williams, Elena Beal and Mr. and Mrs. William Williams wrote letters objecting to the decision to close the post office late last year.

“Please reconsider the decision of closing the post office in Phippsburg,” Beal wrote to postal officials on Nov. 15. “I believe it would make things difficult for the elderly people of this community.”

Bergstrom had not read as of Tuesday the findings of the Regulatory Commission dated Jan. 17, but he sounded resigned to the ultimate closing of his community post office.

“They’re gonna do what they do, I guess,” Bergstrom said. “It’s nice to go down and get your mail, see somebody you haven’t seen in awhile and get the news.”

Postal officials propose to install neighborhood cluster mailboxes in Phippsburg similar to those in use in Steamboat Springs. They have said there also are post office window services and empty post office boxes available in nearby Oak Creek. They add that they will deploy Highway Contract Route Service letter carriers trained to offer Phippsburg residents retail postal services.

The Postal Service notes that the post office averages 32 daily retail window transactions in Phippsburg accounting for 40 minutes of work. They added that annual revenue from 2009 to 2011 was between $17,800 and $18,875, and said closing the post office would save $43,622.

The Postal Service characterized the objections of the Phippsburg residents as being related to what they fear would be reduced postal services, an impact on the community and less cost reduction than the Postal Service has estimated.

The regulatory commission countered that the cost of installing cluster boxes is a one-time expense of $6,000 and that the cost of Highway Contract Route delivery is substantially less throughout time than the cost of maintaining a brick-and-mortar post office.

Nor did the regulatory commission accept the argument that the closing of the post office would reduce the sense of community in Phippsburg.

“Residents may continue to meet informally, socialize and share information at other locations and residences in the community at large,” the commission stated.

The commission also concluded that closing the post office would not reduce postal services with specific attention to senior citizens.

“Customers do not have to make a special trip to the post office in Oak Creek) for most services,” it said. The response to the appeals noted that postage stamps are available by mail and that customers can request certified, registered or Express Mail from the Highway Contract Route Carriers.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners says the Postal Service has erred in its evaluation of the Phippsburg Post Office. In an email dated Monday, Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said the Postal Service continues to use inaccurate information in its evaluation of the Phippsburg Post Office and that it has failed to work with the county on the placement of cluster boxes.

“We have repeatedly told the USPS that we should be consulted regarding the placement of cluster boxes in Phippsburg since all of the rights of way in the town are county rights of way and since we provide the snow plowing for the roads in Phippsburg,” Stahoviak wrote. “The cluster boxes could easily be inundated by snow in a hard winter and it is not our responsibility to make sure they are accessible.

“To date, we have not received one direct response from the USPS to any of our letters or comments. My understanding is that is because they do not consider us a ‘customer’ of the Phippsburg Post Office. Such lack of regard to the concerns of local government is baffling to us.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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