By LESLIE COLLINS
July 31, 2013
Historic Northeast could lose another one of its post office stations.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) closed the post office station at 2657 Independence Ave. in November of 2010, and now the station at 105 N. Hardesty could close as well.
USPS hosted a public forum July 26 to discuss the future of the Hardesty post office station, and about 15 Northeast residents attended.
USPS is evaluating two main factors: revenue generated at the Hardesty station and the number of retail transactions.
“At the Northeast station, revenues have declined by about 20 percent in the last several years,” said Richard Watkins, spokesperson for USPS’ Kansas City-based Mid-America District. “It’s not unlike other businesses who rely on that revenue coming in to fund our operations. When we see a significant drop in revenue, we have to look at alternatives.”
Revenue across the board is declining as people become less reliant on mail, particularly First Class mail, he said. However, at the same time, the number of delivery points, like door delivery, curbside delivery, P.O. boxes, subdivision delivery, among others, continues to grow. On average, USPS delivery points increase by 700,000 to 800,000 annually, he said. Keeping up with those delivery points means using more vehicles and more fuel, which also impacts the USPS budget. Every time gasoline prices increase by one penny, it costs USPS $8 million annually for each penny increase in fuel, Watkins said.
Evaluating individual post office stations and facilities isn’t a new concept, he said.
“We’ve always looked at all of our operations for opportunities to drive costs from the system,” Watkins said. “There’s a greater sense of urgency now because of our financial circumstances.”
USPS is considering several options for the Hardesty station to cut costs. One option includes keeping the station open but operating with reduced hours. If USPS decides to close the post office station, it’s possible that USPS will transfer the Northeast P.O. boxes to the James Crews post office station, 2201 E. Truman Rd., which is located about 3.2 miles from the Hardesty station. Other options for P.O. boxes include keeping the boxes accessible at their current location, 105 N. Hardesty, or determining a secure, alternative location in the Northeast area to relocate the P.O. boxes. USPS will approach community leaders to discuss P.O. box location options. USPS would also ensure it has adequate contracts with Northeast grocery and convenience stores to provide post office services, like selling stamps and mail and package drop off. Watkins said he knows not everyone has access to the Internet, but stressed that USPS does pick up Priority Mail packages and other postal items at customer’s doors if they arrange for the service online.
Although Northeast residents at the meeting stressed they’d like the Hardesty post office station to remain open, they were respectful to the process, Watkins said.
“They listened intently and brought very good points about mail security and about their neighborhood and what the postal service brings to that neighborhood, the stability provided by the postal service,” Watkins said. “I think there was a sense of community that they presented at the meeting, and we really appreciate them attending and sharing their thoughts with us because it’s important for us to hear.”
In terms of a decision timeline, Watkins said USPS could take anywhere from several weeks to several months. Watkins said the decision will be data driven and that Northeast residents will remain informed during the process.