Daily Archives: November 27, 2011

More Postal Service inaccuracies challenged

So you have the same info I do, if you want, download the pdf of the Proposal to close the Ward Post Office, and the pdf of the budget information.

Based on the info in those two docs (and one other letter that’s quoted in my response), I wrote the following letter.

To Whom It May Concern:

I have been reading over the proposal to close the Ward Post Office and subsequent correspondence, again, and I have some more observations and questions to which I’d like answers. I have not seen answers to these questions yet

  1. Marcela, in your letter to Pat Cypher of October 28, 2011, you state:
    “The projected 10-year savings from the discontinuance of the Ward Post Office is $655,139. This amount includes the postmaster salary and fringe benefits. The postmaster salary and benefits for the last fiscal year was $83,675.”
    The latter number, multiplied by ten ($83,675 X 10 = $836,750), would be $181,611 MORE than the former number, which should be the total savings from closure, and BOTH are different from the number actually quoted for “EAS Craft and Labor” in the economic savings breakdown in the proposal, $899,639. So what does this discrepancy mean? How do we trust your (ie the postal service’s) “savings” calculations, when the numbers seem to shift at will?
  2.  In looking at the POD Financial Summary, under Investment there is a line item: Construction/Renovation, with a negative figure: ($14,000). To what does this refer? Farther down, in the column, 10-year Operating Variance, there is another negative number, ($92,859). To what does this refer? Further, I don’t understand the two figures: Total 10-year operating variance: $855,476, and the “POD 10-year NPV, $655,139.” Please explain the difference.
  3. In the proposal, one of the advantages (and disadvantages) you note is “The loss of a retail outlet and a postmaster position in the community. Retail services may be provided by the rural or contract delivery carrier.” I’m pretty clear how this is a disadvantage, please explain to me how this is an “advantage.” I will point out that the same conditions that make travel to Jamestown impractical (it’s a steep, curvy road that’s often snowpacked and/or icy in the winter) also make the carrier’s route timing somewhat less than predictable. So you want us to stand out in below-zero, high-wind (80mph is NOT uncommon), or blizzard conditions, to meet the contract carrier? Or drive an hour+ round trip in dangerous conditions to do our postal retail business? We’re pretty tough, but that’s asking a lot.
  4. Your proposal suggests providing delivery services by highway contract route, I presume using CBUs (Is this government acronym speak for Cluster Box Units?) Who pays for the boxes? Their installation? Their maintenance? The snow plowing necessary to keep them open in the winter? The locksmith to come and unfreeze the (100+) locks when we get one of our common sub-arctic systems? Heck, where are you going to PUT 100+ boxes? Private property? Government property? Who pays the rent on the land? Who pays to reinstall when the snowplow driver can’t see them in the 6 foot drifts and drives over them, or the out of control pickup truck slams into them, and scatters mail from here to Timbuktu? Who gets to go back to banks, billing companies, clients, and the senders of all the other important mail we receive and tell them, “Sorry, I didn’t receive your check, bill, notice.” For instance, I have an FCC Amateur Radio Operator’s License. The FCC is very clear – if they can’t reach you by mail, your license is revoked. If you are caught transmitting on a revoked license, that’s a felony. FYI, there are 7 Ham Radio licensees in the Ward Post Office area.
  5. In the “advantages” section, item #2, “Customers opting for carrier service will have 24-hour access to their mail.’ In point of fact, we have 24-hour access to our mail right now, in a semi-warm (ie not below freezing), protected-from-wind-and-snow, lighted location right this very instant. So that is by NO means an advantage – it’s decidedly a downgrade and a distinct DISadvantage. Item #4 suggests that CBUs and parcel lockers add security and convenience. Already have it, so please keep your CBUs, they are NOT an advantage. None of this addresses how “access” to a CBU will work for the elderly, sick, disabled. Please address this, particularly for our problematic winter months.
  6. Enquiring minds want to know: who decided what was convenient for Ward or what would “adversely impact” it? Have they ever visited Ward, even in summer, much less in winter? Why not?
  7. Item 3 states that “Savings for the Postal Service contribute in the long run to stable postage rates and savings for customers.” In response, some observations and suggestions: from what I’ve seen of the investigations into USPS finances there are several issues that would go a long way to fixing the PO financial woes. The first is to either eliminate the requirement to pre-fund the 75 years of retirement or to extend it over a 40 year period. I know that’s legislative, but that should have been explored first, before putting forth community-destroying proposals. Same with the $6.9B refund. From what I’ve been able to find out, if the USPS were to close each and every one of the rural post offices, it would amount to less than 1% of the USPS budget. That implies to me that the cost “savings” to the PO will be nowhere near enough to actually fix the Postal Service’s fiscal problem.
    I understand there are 67 District Offices across the US and seven Area Offices that bring in $0 (zero dollars). How many people work in the Area and District Offices for the zip code 80481? What are their salaries? Why are you eliminating offices with revenue and not offices that solely administer and never touch the mail, and don’t make a cent for the USPS? So here’s another suggestion: close the District and Area offices. If there are Post Offices where you’ve determined that there isn’t sufficient workload, assign them some of the work the Area and District Offices do now. Post Offices stay open, postmasters stay busy, and you eliminate administrative costs, building rental, utilities, salaries at both the Area and District Offices. What valid reason does the Postal Service have for not considering these kinds of notions before going straight to “screw the customer?” If, in my business, I did that, yeah I’d be out of business in pretty short order too.
    I’ll say this here, from my discussions with my constituents (I am a member of the Ward Town Government), no one that I’ve spoken to, not even the most raging anti-government among us, is even okay with, much less happy with the idea of losing our Post Office. And all to whom I’ve spoken would be okay with the idea of a shortened work week, which would dramatically lower the cost of operation. We’ve talked about half days, 5 or 6 days a week, or only 3 or 4 days a week of window service. We’re not intransigent, but we’re absolutely opposed to the total closure of the post office.
  8. Item #5: “Customers opting for carrier service will not have to pay post office box fees.” $44 per year saved hardly makes up for potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in increased costs of doing business with the post office in a town an hour (RT) away, or waiting for the driver by the highway, especially for those of us depending on the US Mail for some part of our small, home-based businesses.
  9. Item #6: “Saves time and energy for customers who drive to the post office to pick up mail.” And increases time and energy for customers who have to drive to the CBUs (especially in bad weather) to pick up mail. Depending on where you would put the CBUs, it’s probable that it would increase the number of people who have to get in their cars and drive to the boxes, and it would certainly increase the number of people who have to get in their cars to do PO business, even if one can transact with the carrier, even if you’re not physically present. (Let me ask you: would you leave cash in a box by the highway, say for a money order, or for insurance on a package that you want to send? Yes lots of folks in this town not only don’t have a car, they also don’t have bank accounts, and so operate with cash.) At best that “advantage” is a wash.
  10. Among the disadvantages, you mention changing the mailing address, but that the community name will continue to be used. I run a small business, one of 30+ small businesses, government agencies, and non-profits in the Town of Ward (a list is attached). I am here to tell you that that could be devastating – I’ve had thousands of customers over the years and though most contact me by phone or email, some still contact me by mail, and many pay me by mail. Matter of fact, probably half of my income is from big clients whom I invoice and who pay me by mail. I also get some residuals and royalties for work done long ago – always nice to walk to the Post Office and find a surprise check. I would have almost no way to contact those payees to inform them of an address change. I’m resisting exaggeration, but the potential for loss is staggering, and I’m not completely sure my business would survive it. I know that other business owners here feel the same. That’s not to mention the family/friends/ acquaintances who have my address from the 20+ years I’ve used this post office. Another loss of time and money to me. Additionally you say “the Zip Code is not expected [italics mine] to change.” Boy that leaves a hole you could drive a Postal Service 18-wheeler through.
  11. Factual errors: Ward IS an incorporated community. It is administered politically by the Ward Town Government, consisting of 6 elected council members and a mayor, not by Ward Town Hall. Ward Town Marshall provides Police Protection, not Boulder County. The Ward Post Office building IS listed as an historic landmark (115+ years old), and even though the Postal Service has been operating from that building for only 37 years, we’ve had postal service in this community for 148 years. Why do you not count the years we’ve had postal service, only the years it’s been in that building? You’re not changing buildings, you’re looking to eliminate the service altogether, in this town. Why have you not corrected these factual errors?
  12. Over the past 4 years, only one year has seen a decline in revenue, and the September year-to-date in 2011, still shows an increase in revenue over September ytd 2008 (from the historical figure in the financial reports), and that is in a general economic downturn that has affected our community as much or more than many others. In evaluating the mail volume sheets, I notice that the numbers show both ups and downs, not a consistent or steady decline in most categories, as your justification states. So effectively, though the revenues/volume are not high, by your own figures they are NOT steadily declining, as stated in paragraph 2 of the justification. (You even note in paragraph 3 that there has been a slight INCREASE in revenue over the last few years. Please. Make up your mind.

Again, if decline in workload is an issue, we are open to a reduced hours compromise. Has this even been discussed? Why not?

If this proposal had used accurate information, that supported your justifications, then the conclusion might be more reasonable. However in my industry we have a saying: GIGO. Garbage in, garbage out, ie you can’t make a good decision based on faulty information.

Additionally, nowhere in any of these documents do you speak to the intangibles of what happens when you shut down the heart of the community; that’s not listed in the “disadvantages,” but to the community it’s an overriding consideration. Closing the Ward Post Office would devastate our community. I have seen what happens to communities, isolated to begin with, that lose their post offices. “Adversely affected” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

For the third time, we are open to alternative ideas for how to keep our Post Office open.

Thanks for the detailed and accurate answers I expect you to provide in answer to these questions.

Yours truly,

Karelle Scharff

Small business owner

Member of Ward Town Council