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COMMENTARY: Closing post offices a sign of the times

August 6, 2011
RICHARD ROSENTRETER, Lake Placid News Editor
The steady decline of the U.S. Postal Service and the subsequent closure of small post offices around the country is something people are just going to have to get used to. It’s sad to say, but smaller offices are a luxury the agency can no longer afford.

While it is true that rural post offices are a vital part of the lives of the communities they serve, the Postal Service loses billions of dollars each year. I have rarely — if ever — defended the management of the Postal Service, and still maintain that with better upper-level management, the post office would not be in such dire straights today — however, the closure of smaller post offices is a necessity.

Perhaps it was inevitable these post offices that serve a small percentage of the population would be forced to close. Now that it is happening more often, people are realizing just how important the agency is to these communities — and how much they miss it when it is taken away.

Keene Valley residents know first-hand how it feels to lose a post office. Now other post offices in the region are on the chopping block. Sure, the post office will “study” the situation, but more closures will happen, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Eventually, there will only be a five-day delivery.

When I was employed by the Postal Service, the five- day work week was used as merely a negotiating ploy against the union. Not anymore. Now the Postal Service is seriously considering it as an option.

When I worked as a letter carrier in the 1990s, there was also talk of privatizing the Postal Service. One of the biggest weapons the union had to combat that, was arguing that in the hands of a big company whose only objective is to make money, all the rural and “undesirable” areas would be tossed to the wayside.

In a business sense, one cannot blame the Postal Service for making drastic cuts. I, however, can look back and think about all the billions of dollars the Postal Service has spent on technology to monitor the activity of its employees. Money spent on automation systems that did not live up to expectations. Money spent on high-level managers who did nothing productive for the agency.

There was a time when the word Service in Postal Service translated into an obligation toward the public good. Now the Postal Service must struggle to save its own good.

It is what it is. People no longer rely on the post office to pay bills or communicate. Pay phones no longer dot the landscape. Even newspapers face a tough future. From now on, when you read about another post office closing and hear the outcry that follows, recognize it as a sign of the times.

And when you see your friendly neighborhood mailman walking along his or her route, say hello. You never know when you’ll be saying goodbye for good.



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