Senate bill could postpone post office closures | SteamboatToday.com

Senate bill could postpone post office closures

Phippsburg, Toponas wait for news on Postal Service reform

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall

The future of two rural Routt County post offices continues to hang in the balance as the U.S. Senate discusses Postal Service reform this week.

Amid the talks on Capitol Hill, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., is pushing to save rural post offices — including those in Phippsburg and Toponas — from possible closure.

On Wednesday, as a postal reform bill circulated the Senate floor, Udall co-sponsored an amendment led by Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., that would protect rural post offices from closure for two more years. After that period, the Postal Service would consider a town's geography, Internet access and economic impact of the post office before any closures would take place.

The amendment stipulates that the Postal Service look into other cost-saving measures in the meantime, according to a news release from Udall's office.

"I hope Mark Udall can get that (amendment) put through," said Barbara Gehl, Toponas Country General Store owner and rural mail route carrier in South Routt. "That'd be a big step forward for all our post offices. Even if it is a two-year moratorium … it would be beneficial to both sides."

The Phippsburg Post Office already has been notified of its pending closure because of low revenue and usage. At the end of January, the town was denied its appeal. The Toponas Post Office is awaiting a final determination on its closure study.

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In December, Postal Service officials announced they planned to delay closing any post offices until May 15 to allow for possible legislation, after Udall, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and 20 other lawmakers advocated for the moratorium.

"While I understand the need to make the U.S. Postal Service leaner in the 21st century, I do not believe that rural Coloradans should have their access to vital postal and other services limited as a result of decisions made by bureaucrats in Washington," Udall said in Wednesday's news release.

Phippsburg and Toponas are just two of more than 80 post offices statewide and 3,700 across the country that are facing closure as the Postal Service looks to make up for a $10 billion deficit.

Gehl, who has been organizing Toponas' opposition to the closure, said she's grateful that Udall is advocating for rural post offices.

"That's what we need, is somebody in that kind of a position to speak up and say, 'Wait a minute, we need these post offices, we don't want to lose them,'" she said.

The Phippsburg Post Office, which began the closure process earlier than Toponas, would close as early as May 15 unless the date is pushed back again. Longtime resident Louise Iacovetto has been organizing that community's effort to save the post office.

"It's gratifying to hear he's out there trying to do something," Iacovetto said. "We've just been waiting to see what happens."

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com

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