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Tribune Editorial: Deadline looms for post office decisions

The growing crisis of the U.S. Postal Service, commonly known as the post office, is headed toward a deadline this spring as Congress has until May 15 to resolve the budget problem.

The Postal Service has been reviewing various options in an attempt to balance its budget, including some drastic changes in traditional service levels. Those changes include closing some rural post offices, closing the majority of regional mail processing centers and changing first-class mail delivery standards or delivery days.

These proposed changes are raising concerns in rural regions across the country and in the election prospects of members of Congress. These concerns are real and they should be.

The Postal Service has been a United States institution since 1775. The Postal Service has been a major factor in the development and the economy of the country. Despite its declining mail volume due to technology developments and user habits, mail service remains critical.

The closing of mail processing centers has already started. Mail sorting for the 562 section, which includes most of west central Minnesota, is no longer done in Willmar. A letter mailed in Willmar to another Willmar address may not be delivered the next day.

Processing centers in Duluth, Bemidji, St. Cloud, Rochester and others are also on the closing list. Basically, mail across most of Minnesota in the future will be shipped to Minneapolis, sorted and then sent back to your local post office.

The closing of post offices, the majority in rural areas, is also a possibility. West central Minnesota towns being reviewed for possible closure include Sunburg, Watson, Hanley Falls, Clontarf, Danvers, Holloway, Correll and Porter. More post offices could be added to the closing list in the future.

The Postal Service is also considering changing delivery schedules, by cutting Saturday or another day of delivery and ending the guarantee of first-class mail delivery within one to three days. Rural mail delivery service could also be threatened.

All of these changes could and will impact the services available to customers, especially those in rural regions like west central Minnesota. Rural residents could have to drive to town to mail letters or pick up their mail. People getting their prescriptions via mail would have to find a different delivery method as would your local pharmacy. Subscribers of newspapers and magazines would no longer be able to get timely delivery of their news and information.

The post office is an economic factor in every community in our region. Without the timely delivery of mail, businesses would be reluctant to locate in rural communities. This would make economic development even more challenging.

All of these changes could just accelerate the downward spiral of the post office's viability, which is a national treasure and economic factor.

Members of Congress are worried and they should be. This planned closing of many facilities of the Postal Service is a reflection of the continued dysfunction in Congress, with members unable to solve the real problems of America. Voters are not happy.

Voter concern over the Postal Service changes is growing. Constituents are and should be talking to members of Congress calling for a fix to the Postal Service dilemma. Congress should consider multiple steps to remake the Postal Service and establish a firmer financial base, not just accept the gradual closing down of the Postal Service.