The U.S. Postal Service is again looking at closing post offices in Alaska to save money. Locations in the state survived a round of cuts a few months ago, but now the Postmaster General has announced a list of more than 3,600 offices throughout the country being examined for closure or relocation. Three-dozen of them are in Alaska. They’re scattered throughout the state, from Minto and Manley Hot Springs in the Interior, to Wales and Kobuk in the northwest, to Anvik and Red Devil in the southwest and Douglas and Point Baker in the southeast. A couple are on military installations like Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage and Fort Wainwright Army Post in Fairbanks.
The closures are not a done-deal – the 36 Alaska locations will be evaluated by the Postal Service. But they ended up on the short list for reasons including having few visitors, minimal hours, and small volume.
Postal Service spokesman Ernie Swanson in Seattle expects the Alaska offices to be given different consideration than those in communities with numerous locations.
“The decision on what post offices ended up on the list was largely made at postal service headquarters. It’s kind of a numbers game back there and Alaska is unique in terms of the remoteness of offices, the distances between offices, the lack of transportation, even roads between offices. So I think Alaska will have to be looked at differently than post offices in the other 49 states.”
Alaska’s Senators are already fighting to keep the Alaska offices open. Senator Lisa Murkowski put out a statement today calling community post offices a “necessity, not a convenience” and Senator Mark Begich has reached out to the Postmaster General. They’ve successfully fought back plans to downsize Alaska postal service in the past.
A few months ago Alaska offices were removed from a list of places targeted for closure, and Ernie Swanson with the Postal Service says Alaska also ducked a round of cuts a few years ago.
“Alaska to this point has been spared from those lists. But the postal service continues to lose money at a critical pace. We’re losing about $23 million every day, and we just can’t continue to do business that way, obviously.”
If post offices do close, the USPS is proposing a plan to move mail service in some communities to other local retailers, such as grocery stores. They’d be able to sell stamps and basic flat rate packages, or what was once a post office might be downgraded to an automated kiosk.
All told the Postal Service is considering shutting more than 10 percent of its offices nationwide, it hopes to save $200 million annually. USPS is deeply in a financial hole and expects to lose $8 billion this year.
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