Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cordova Fights to Keep Post Office Open

Todd Case, left,  and Howard Nissen, represented the US Postal Service at the Cordova Town Hall.

Cordova resident Lance Larsen, far right, moderated the Town Hall meeting and gives Tom Jensen, middle the microphone to ask a question while Tammy Sladek, on the far right, listens.

The population sign outside of Cordova.

 Cordova Fire Hall signs informs the community of the Town Hall meeting.

Cordova Postmaster Kathy Stych outside the post office.

There were very few empty chairs and plenty of residents standing at the Cordova Town Hall meeting about the possible closing of the post office.

Cordova, population 147, has been notified they are on a list of post offices that may be closed to help the United States Postal Service drastically cut it's deficit.
"The deal isn't done," according to Todd Case, manager of US Postal Operations from Lincoln.  Case along with Howard Nissen, area senior manager of postal operations in Nebraska, Kansas and western Iowa spoke to residents' concerns at a town hall meeting on Tuesday, October 18th.
The village was notified that there will now be a 60 day review period ending in November where the "work hours" at the post office are monitored. Two of the main criteria in choosing post offices to cut were office with less than a two hour work load and offices with less than $27,500 walk in revenue per year.
November 27th the review period ends and the USPS will compile a report which will include the results from a post office survey offered to Cordova post office users, the results of the work load study and revenues.  The financial workbook will also have a cost/savings benefit reports included.
Kathy Stych serves as the postmaster in Cordova and nearly every community member at the town hall meeting spoke in support of her.  Kristine Winters, a relative newcomer to the community testified that "Cordova is a growing community. . .the postmaster is so much more to a small town than just taking care of the mail."
Village Board member and former Cordova mayor Delayne Eberspacher spoke, noting that the post office is the main venue that the village has to communicate with the residents, "The post office is the centralized location for public notices.  I don't know how we would go about it if we didn't have the post office."

Case and Nissen explained that if the Post Office closed in Cordova, the community would be served by a rural carrier out of Friend who would deliver to individual boxes, or to cluster boxes around town or to one central box location. However, they did confirm that Cordova would maintain their town identification and zip code, box residents would change from a Post Office box to a street address.
Case and Nissen cited the financial hardships that the USPS is facing with $607,578 spent in Cordova over the last 10 years.  Nissen stated that 3700 offices nationwide with 400 in Kansas and Nebraska are scheduled to be closed.  "Could Friend be closed? Absolutely, because we have closed a station in Lincoln and Lincoln is a profitable area for the Post Office.  When facing financial bankruptcy you can't survive in a business without cutting.  We need customers, it's kind of paradoxical - we are going to close your post office but we want you to use the post office.  Rural carriers are the cheapest option," explained Nissen.
Most of the two hour session was spent with Case and Nissen answering the questions from the Cordova residents.  Many of the residents were well prepared citing the lack of service from other carriers, naming Fed Ex and UPS, neither will deliver in Cordova. Resident Angie Petersen testified that, "Cordova is the only community in Nebraska that isn't wired for fiber optics," [which indicates they cannot get high speed internet] defending the lack of alternate resources for the community.
Case and Nissen explained that part of the demise of the post office is due to the increase in technology including email and online bill paying which has led to a massive reduction in mail pieces.  They stated that if Cordova were to switch to rural carriers those carriers would be able to provide nearly every service the post office is providing now.  Rural carriers would be able to accept and deliver packages, sell stamps, and provide money orders.  They did note that rural carriers are not equipped to handle debit or credit cards.
Other items brought to the postal representatives attention were:
 - options for cutting the post office hours, including Saturday's nationwide instead of closing individual post offices.
- the fact that Cordova is a growing community
- the current road construction project which will bring a paved road from Interstate 80 to Cordova
- the possibility that some of the figures state by the USPS were inaccurate
- currently the post office does not pay anything for lawn upkeep or snow removal because the postmaster takes care of it.
At the end of the evening Case reviewed the next steps in the process.  After the November 27th deadline, Case will review the portfolio of information that has been gathered on the Cordova post office. Case reminded the crowd that "The focus is on the workload, do we have enough workload to justify the postmaster?"
If Case decides that the closing should happen, the information will be forwarded to a district level at which point another supervisor will review and either approve or disapprove the closing.  If approved, residents of Cordova will be notified that they have 30 days to appeal the decision.  Case strongly encouraged each resident to write a letter of appeal to the Postal Regulatory Commission who will review each item in the appeal. "They make a decision based on what is in the official record.  The hardest thing about this for us in the human factor.  We understand the impact in the communities and to our employees."

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