Thursday, August 13, 2015

Many rural post office owners live out of state and are not aware of daily operations, upkeep

Most post offices are not owned by the U.S. Postal Service, "and relatively few of them are owned by entities with the same ZIP code as the one on the outside of the building," Wendy Royston reports for Dakotafire Media in Frederick, S.D. Of the 32,232 buildings currently in use, USPS owns 8,583 "and leases 23,649—or 73 percent—of them from private entities." A spokesman said the Postal Service doesn't have the money to purchase all the buildings. (The owner of the Kulm, S.D., post office lives in Seattle)

A sample of 288 post offices in eastern South Dakota and southeastern North Dakota shows that only 37 percent in South Dakota and 33 percent in North Dakota "were owned by a person or a business with an address 10 miles or less from the post office community," Royston writes. That means that post offices, especially in rural areas, are being maintained by someone would could live hundreds of miles away, sometimes even out of state.

For example, in Kulm, S.D., the post office building had fallen into disrepair, with problems such as broken light fixtures, poor sink drainage in the bathroom and a drafty front door, Royston writes. Once the landlord found out about the building's condition, he immediately had the problems fixed. But since he lived in Seattle—1,429 miles away—he was unaware of any problems.

In another example, the Mellette, S.D., post office—whose owners live in Washington—was contracted to "have mold remediated, windows and air conditioner replaced and the lobby renovated to accommodate 24-hour box access just before she inquired with a local contractor about stabilizing the sagging structure," Royster writes. The contractor told co-owner Darlene Visser "the building was beyond repair, so she asked the USPS their take. She said she didn’t get a response until someone from Mellette contacted her, telling her trucks had arrived to remove postal fixtures. Shortly thereafter, she received a bill for three days’ worth of labor for the move."

"The situation was frustrating for local customers, too, who were given 24 hours’ notice of the closure," Royster writes. "They now collect their mail at a 'cluster box' in front of the old building and drive four miles to Northville, S.D., to conduct all other postal business. Because the [owners] couldn’t be contacted directly, local postal patrons’ hands were tied." (Read more)

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