A spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service says his office has been inundated with phone calls since the announcement that 178 post offices could be closed in Iowa. Richard Watkins says the reality is that there has to be some changes in postal operations.
“Basically what it boils down to is that a retail network which is larger than WalMart, Starbucks and McDonalds combined, is no longer sustainable,” Watkins says. He says the system worked decades ago but in 2011 with the number of employees and facilities they have is unsustainable given the drop in mail volume.
Watkins says the Postal Service is realigning itself, not shutting down operations. He says other businesses left town in rural Iowa 10 or 15 years ago and are not coming back, but the postal service is going to continue delivering mail, selling stamps and delivering and accepting packages and letters. “But we simply have to find a way to remain viable,” Watkins says.
Watkins says Iowa is a good example of the problem they have as the state has some 900 post offices. He says that represents about 3% of the nation’s post offices, while the 2010 Census shows Iowa has about one-percent of the nation’s population.
“So there are certainly more post offices than we need given the dramatic decline in mail volume and the less frequent use of those traditional post offices by our customers,” Watkins said.
The governor, state and federal lawmakers and many others weighed in when the proposed closings were announced. Watkins says part of the process will be to get input from the public before they make any final decision.
“I know there are those who would suggest that the postal service has made decisions on these offices, we have not,” he says, “We need to hear from the communities, we need to hear from community leaders. But the financial reality is that again, the postal service as a self supporting agency of the government, which is not supported by tax dollars…we have to match our workforce and our facilities with the declining workload.”
Watkins says there are many alternatives such as having postal operations in convenience stores where they don’t have to have the number of workers needed to sustain a regular post office.