The U.S. Postal Service and Congress announced Dec. 13 a moratorium on closing any more post offices until May 15. For facilities in Lehigh, Durham, Lost Springs, Ramona, and 130 other locations in Kansas, that was good news.
The purpose of the reprieve is to give Congress time to enact legislation to overhaul the country?s financially insolvent mail-delivery system.
Democratic senators, the U.S. postmaster general and the U.S. Postal Service board of governors chairman came up with the moratorium.
The four Marion County post offices are among the 3,700 facilities across the country, mostly in rural areas, that were scheduled for closure in January and February. For now, they have about a five-month reprieve.
Lehigh?s postmaster relief employee Ruth Coyle said the announcement is positive news.
?I am glad Congress is taking an interest,? she said.
Even though the postal facility has a few extra months, Coyle said residents in Lehigh have not stopped fighting to keep their post office open.
With a population of about 200, she said 80 residents have contacted U.S. senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran and U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, who also have responded.
?Residents are continuing to do studies and surveys during this reprieval time,? she said.
In the meantime, ?we get memos every day? from the postal service about what is happening.
Coyle also mentioned the efforts of groups trying to save Kansas post offices.
?Along with a lot of community support, the Kansas Sam?pler Foundation is going around purchasing stamps,? she said.
Marci Penner, KSF director, and WenDee LaPlant, assistant director, visited seven towns in one day and bought almost $400 in stamps while traveling more than 400 miles.
?There is nothing like experiencing an issue firsthand,? Penner said after her trip Nov. 9.
She said she was getting e-mails and phone calls from residents worried about losing their post offices.
?At some point, you can?t just have these conversations and not do something about it,? she said.
Coyle said she is more relaxed knowing Lehigh?s post office won?t close after the new year, but she and others are not waiting for the other shoe to drop.
?So many communities depend on their little post offices,? she said.
Open until 5 p.m.
Another advantage of keeping Lehigh?s facility open is because of its hours of operation.
?Hillsboro (Post Office) closes at 4:30 p.m., Canton and Durham close at 3 p.m. and we close at 5 p.m., which means we are the only post office in a 35-mile radius that stays open until 5 p.m.,? she said.
That?s important, she said, because some things are time sensitive, noting the farmers need to get crop samples and DNA mailed within 12 hours.
Farmers can?t always make it before 4:30 p.m. and need that window of time for mailing, she said.
?From 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. is a busy time,? Coyle added.
Ramona using extra time
Kathy Matkins, Ramona postmaster, said the recent announcement was ?great news,? adding that she was ?tickled pink an angel was sent down from heaven? to tell her she had a few more months of doing what she has done all her life.
Matkins said she hopes with the five-month reprieve, Congress and the USPS will come up with innovative ways to produce additional revenue.
Some of ways could be Congress allowing the postal service to sell other products besides stamps, such as hunting licenses.
Matkins said Ramona residents aren?t idle either.
?They are writing letters to their three congressman and just this week, Pat Wick and Jessica Gilbert are sending out portfolios of what their community has been doing,? she said.
Postal officials informed
Gilbert said Monday that five packets of information were sent to the USPS departments to include Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe, Postal Rate Commission in Washington D.C., and three divisions at the Omaha, Neb. Central Plains district offices.
?Each packet,? Gilbert said, ?contained copies of all press releases concerning postal closures from area newspapers, samples of our Ramona News and posters announcing the Oct. 20 meeting.?
Other information enclosed was the sign-in sheet for that meeting, signed petition from Ramona and Tampa residents, letters Gilbert said she sent to President Barack Obama, Senators Roberts and Moran, and their replies, and a cover letter for each packet stating questions that were not adequately answered at the Oct. 20 meeting.
Gilbert said she is thrilled about the moratorium for five months, crediting the work of Sen. Moran for some this.
?We will remain watchful and alert until we know that Ramona is permanently off the closure list,? Gilbert said. ?All we can do is our best and if the post office still closes, I?ll know we did all we knew to do.?
Matkins said giving post offices on the closure list five more months was ?awesome news and a smart move? by the postmaster general.
?This is a great way to go and rationally think things out and make the best decisions,? she said. ?(Congress and USPS) need time to find a solution?it?s a big company.?
When it comes to rural communities, Matkins said its the post office that connects residents to the rest of the world.
?This is the only (full-time) business left in our town,? she added.
With a population of about 100 people, many are elderly in wheelchairs and walkers.
Matkins said these people are in their 60s, 70s and 80s and getting around and traveling to another post office (if this one closes) would be difficult.
People in Ramona care about their post office too.
?I have seen an increase in postage sales,? she said. ?I believe no one ever thought it would ever get this bad?it was a real awakening.?
Yet Matkins and other residents are hoping for the ultimate response once the moratorium ends, which would be positive.
?(The moratorium) is a start and (Congress) has to start somewhere. I am hoping they utilize the time and, on behalf of everyone, that it works out for the best,? she said. ?Subjectively, those are some of my feelings.?
Senator offers his thoughts
Sen. Pat Roberts also weighed in on the issue.
?Thanks to a push made by U.S. Senators, the USPS agreed to delay the closing or consolidation of any post office or mail processing facility until spring of 2012,? he said.
Roberts said he hopes this will prove to be enough time to decide the final course of action for the postal service.
?Rest assured,? he said, ?I will continue to speak out for the needs of Kansas communities as I work with my colleagues to find solutions to the significant challenges facing the postal service.?