Saturday, November 01, 2014
   
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Post Office on chopping block at Farnam

Plenty turn out at Senior Center to learn how to stop action.

The Farnam Post Office is nestled between the fire hall and a mechanic shop on the main drag of this tiny town of 235.

Across the street is a 10-year-old Senior Center that sits next to a shiny First State Bank building.

Down the hill, All Points Cooperative recently invested $4.5 million in the building of three storage bins.

With these indications of a flourishing community, many residents fear the possibility of losing their post office as the U.S. Postal Service looks at budget-tightening measures.

Following an informational meeting at the Senior Center Monday night, attended by 66 people, resident Kathy Widick described the loss of the post office as a step toward the “dying of our town.”

“We have a bedroom population anyway and need to provide services to whose who don’t drive out of town,” she said.

Kathy Hand, manager of post office operations in central and western Nebraska, told the group why post offices were closing, summarized the process and suggested options for the community.

“If we (the post office) were independent, we’d be bankrupt,” Hand said, noting that the federal service is losing $27 million daily because of the decline of first-class mail and societal changes, especially in technology and use of electronic mail.

In addition, she said the service was ordered to pre-fund retiree benefits in 2005 which added to the downward spiral.

Not only are small post offices under consideration for closure, she pointed out, but several in larger cities such as Omaha and Lincoln could lose facilities.

Closing the Farnam post office would save about $116,316 in operating savings the first year, and $700,003 over 19 years, Hand said.

If the post office closes, Hand said the Eustis mail carrier would deliver to Farnam residents unless they choose to rent a box in another town like Gothenburg.

Mail boxes would be erected in the line of delivery which may mean residents walk across the street for their mail.

Hand said the carrier would have stamps for sale and could collect packages for delivery.

A handful of residents expressed concern whether water samples or diagnostic animal tests could be mailed the same day.

Hand said she didn’t know.

Mail from Farnam is currently sent to McCook, and then to North Platte for processing.

The hearing was midway through a 60-day public posting period. Patrons can now document why or why not their post office should remain open which will be evaluated by postal officials who will also consider what effect the closing will have on the community.

Notice of their decision will be posted for 30 days and residents have another 60 days to appeal.

Other criteria include such things as distance to the nearest post office and how many hours the facility is open each day.

“Farnam is 11 miles away from Eustis,” Hand said, noting that closing criteria is 10 miles or less. The office is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday and two hours on Saturdays.

If the closing is appealed, she said federal officials have 120 days to answer.

To try and save their post office, Hand urged residents to complete a questionnaire they received.

“Tell them why it would be a hardship and about all the awards the community has received and economic development,” she said, noting that retired postmasters are good sources of information.

U.S. congressional representative and senators also need to know how residents feel, Hand said.

“And be factual,” she said. “Tell them why you can’t drive to mail a package.”

After the meeting, Clayton Earll said he thinks a rural carrier could meet the needs of Farnam residents, except for elderly people who can’t drive.

“People would have to step up to help out,” he said, adding that many people in town drive out of town to work. “Their hours just don’t jive with the post office anyway.”

He added that post offices are a sign of a thriving community.

“If you don’t have one, it’s gives a different impression,” Earll said.

On Tuesday, Paxton postmaster Jessie Bergen said all post offices, mail processing and distributing centers across the country will be reviewed at some point.

Bergen attended the Monday night meeting in Farnam.

A list of 46 Nebraska post offices being studied for closure can be viewed at http://about.usps.com/news/electronic-press-kits/

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