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Brandon residents to decide fate of post office

Karen Senesac is the current postmaster at the Brandon Post Office. Residents are currently being surveyed about some proposed changes to the post office. A meeting will take place on the issue Wednesday. (Tara Bitzan/Echo Press)

If they like their post office, Brandon residents have a “no-brainer” decision to make.

As part of a customer survey, the U.S. Postal Service is asking residents whether to:

0 Talk about it

● Add an additional half hour a day window service at the Brandon Post Office.

● Discontinue the post office and pursue other options such as roadside mailbox delivery, contracting with a local business to operate postal services or switching mail service to a nearby post office.

The survey has been sent to Brandon Post Office customers. In addition, a meeting will take place next Wednesday, July 23, at the City Auditorium at 6:30 p.m. to answer questions and provide more information about the changes, which are part of the “Post Plan” that is being conducted nationwide.

At the meeting, a postal manager will present the results of the customer survey, answer questions and take suggestions on service going forward.

A final decision and any changes to window hours will be posted at the post office roughly seven to 10 days later, and changes will go into effect no sooner than 30 days after that.

The Echo Press contacted a regional spokesperson for the U.S. Post Office, Peter Nowacki, to answer some questions about what is happening at the Brandon Post Office:

What are the changes?

Under the Post Plan evaluation process, Brandon was determined to be a six-hour per day office.

Current window hours in Brandon are 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.; 12:30 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday; and 9:30 to 10 a.m. Saturday.

That makes Brandon something of an oddity. Since there are currently 5.5 hours of window service each day, Brandon will actually gain an additional half-hour of service daily.

Why are the changes being made?

The shift from hard copy to electronic forms of communication has had a profound impact on the Postal Service.

Since 2006, overall mail volumes have declined by more than 25 percent and visits to post offices have declined as well

Meeting customers’ needs remains the top priority of the Postal Service, but declining volumes and revenues (remember that the Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operations) means we have to align service hours offered to better match actual customer demand and reduce costs.

When Post Plan is fully implemented, anticipated savings are approximately $500 million annually nationwide.

Are there any other changes besides window service?

Delivery services, access to P.O. Boxes and Saturday hours will not be impacted.

Could this be the first step toward closing the post office in Brandon?

Post Plan was devised as a way to keep smaller post offices open, not close them. Post offices evaluated under Post Plan will remain open with realigned hours unless a community has a strong preference for one of the other options offered in the customer survey.

Will any employees be let go?

No. Brandon will continue to be served by a postmaster and a postmaster relief. The postmaster position will become part-time (6.5 hours per day).

And one additional point: To better serve customers, the Postal Service continues to pursue the establishment of Village Post Offices (VPO) in the communities affected by these changes and in other areas across the country, including communities with post offices.

VPOs may be established in convenience stores, other local businesses, libraries, etc. and are managed by the proprietors. By being located inside established businesses and other places consumers already frequent, VPOs offer customers convenience, and in most cases, longer hours than regular post offices.

VPOs offer a range of popular postal products and services – the ones most used by customers – including P.O. Boxes, Forever stamps and pre-paid priority mail flat rate envelopes.

Since 2012, more than 600 VPOs have been established nationwide.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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