With the United States Postal Service looking to downsize its operations in an attempt to close a nearly $9 billion deficit, residents of Dagus Mines are being faced with the possibility of having their local post office shuttered. In a public forum at the Fox Township Senior Center on Monday night, residents met with representatives from the United States Postal Service (USPS) to discuss the future of the town's mail service.
Dave Devey, Post Master for Kittaning and Wendy Hudak, Post Office Operations Manager for the 155 through 159 ZIP code territories, took questions from residents and attempted to explain the issue from beginning to end.
Devey said that mail volume has been steadily declining and that first class mail has declined "faster than ever anticipated." He added that the drop in revenue has accelerated the downsizing process already in effect.
"If you owned a gas station here in town, and you only had three loyal customers coming in every day, could you afford to keep it open? That is kind of what the post office is facing now," Hudak said.
She added that the post office is currently considering 126 offices in western Pennsylvania for closure.
Devey and Hudak explained that if the Dagus Mines post office closed, the town would adopt a "rural delivery service" system and mail would be redirected through the Kersey office. They reassured residents that in the event of a closure, they would retain the town name and ZIP code. They explained to residents that instead of the current system in which mail is sorted by name in Dagus Mines, street addresses, or 911 addresses, would become their new mailing addresses.
Regarding any possible confusion resulting from the change, Hudak said that the policy in western Pennsylvania is, "if we know where it goes, deliver it."
Hudak added that if rural delivery is implemented, residents would have exposed roadside mailboxes rather than the individual post office boxes they now have.
When asked what options elderly or invalid customers would have in the placement of mailboxes, Hudak said that rural delivery does not permit boxes on houses unless the resident qualifies as a "hardship case," with supporting documentation provided by a medical practitioner. The speakers told those opposed to the idea of roadside mailboxes that a P.O. box could be purchased through the Kersey office for $22 for six months and $44 for the year.
The Dagus Mines Post Office has been in existence since 1880. Attendees asked if the building's status as a historical site could have any bearing on the decision. Hudak said that the Post Office does not own the property, but rather leases it, and therefore its status would not influence the decision.
"Couldn't they [post office officials] have seen this coming five years ago? Wasn't this a foreseeable issue, with people using the internet to pay bills?" asked Jeanette Malburg of Dagus Mines. She also asked why an increase in the price of a postage stamp was not enacted in an attempt to stem losses.
Hudak responded by saying the latest requests to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) for a postage increase, as well as a move to five-day delivery weeks, have been denied.
Devey said that the decision is not yet finalized and that residents can ultimately affect the outcome by attending meetings like the one held Monday and filling out and returning surveys. He added that once a final determination regarding the local branch's fate is handed down, there will be 30 days in which customers can appeal the decision to the PRC.