Postal patrons in a number of area communities are hoping their local offices will be spared when the U.S. Postal Services begins posting closure notices in the coming weeks.
The Postal Service has held public meetings related to closures affecting more than 20 area post offices and currently has comment periods open.
The comment period closes in Sawyer next Thursday, and residents there are worried. Patrons who attended the public meeting sensed that the proceeding was a formality, said city auditor Cody Roteliuk.
The Granville post office, shown Tuesday, is slated for potential closure unless patrons can persuade the Postal Service to keep it open.
"There was just not a good feeling when you came away from it," she said. "They didn't have a lot of answers. It was very frustrating. You felt like you left the meeting knowing less than when you went in."
In Butte, more than 50 people attended the public meeting and received few answers, said Dennis Schott of Butte.
"That's what scares me about the whole thing. They have an agenda and they aren't hearing what the people are saying out here," he said.
The Postal Service has selected certain, lower revenue post offices for closure to try to address its budget deficit. The agency would like to replace post offices with rural delivery and business-based postal stations where residents can buy products and mail packages and letters.
Most of the smaller communities targeted say they have no businesses able to take on a postal station, nor do they want to be served by rural routes.
"It will be a huge loss to our community if we lost the post office," Roteliuk said. "We are starting to see growth with new development and now they are taking our post office away."
Vianne Cofell, of Sawyer, previously traded her rural route for an office box because of the easier access and security.
"I hope we can do something about keeping our post office. I think it means a lot to everybody in town," she said.
Schott, who owns an insurance agency in Butte, said the post office is essential to his business. It also is essential to the senior citizens in the community, who depend on the mail for medicines and other items because of the distance to larger centers, he said. The postmaster also keeps an eye out for elderly patrons, raising an alert to check on those whose mail goes unclaimed. Without a post office, the town's seniors might move away, Schott said.
He said the town would rather see reduced service than no service if that's what it takes to operate the Postal Service in the black.
"We know we have to bite the bullet. At the same time we know we want our local town to survive," he said.
Granville has been among the most active in fighting potential closure of its post office.
The town held an emergency meeting to develop a plan of attack that includes submitting a petition with 296 signatures, a letter from the mayor, numerous resident comment forms and a census report.
Most of the information the Postal Service is citing regarding the Granville office has been misinformation, said Theresa Mogard, a city council member.
"They are not using all the available information to make their decision," she said. The Postal Service touts 24-hour access to mailboxes as a benefit of getting rural delivery out of Minot, but people already have that 24-hour access with their postal boxes, she said. The agency has incorrect demographic information for Granville, and fails to note that revenues, although down from 2007, are down only $134. Revenues increased between 2009 and 2010.
"The town is growing and the businesses are staying very busy," Mogard said. Granville looks to facilitate a development that could add another 32 homes.
Granville is preparing an appeal should its initial efforts fail to stop closure. Mogard said her research shows Granville has a reasonable shot at success. Also working in Granville's favor is a bill in Congress that would limit the number of rural post offices that could be closed to 10 percent of all closings.
Five of McHenry County's nine post offices are on the closure list. In addition to Granville, others are Upham, Bantry, Karlsruhe and Voltaire.
Knowing that post offices in larger towns like Granville, with 241 people, are targeted for closure, Voltaire Mayor Marlin Latimer wonders what hope there is for Voltaire, with 40 residents. The postal supervisor at their public meeting offered no answers to residents' questions, much to the community's disappointment, he said.
Jacki Holen, of rural Upham, said the closing is proposed at a time when her town is growing.
"It's kind of disturbing," she said. "It's not progress."
Residents use the post office for delivery of farm parts, medicine and medical supplies. That no longer will be convenient if mail servicomes out of Newburg or Towner, Holen said. Heavy snowfall and spring flooding also have been known to interfere with travel to Newburg or Towner, forcing long detours, she added.
Epping is fighting the Postal Service's proposal to serve the community from Williston. Residents say the Williston office already is overworked, and they don't want to drive that far to wait in line. The community has received support for its post office from Rangeland Energy, which is building a crude-to-rail terminal at Epping.