Bulletin editorial: Postal changes a mixed bagThere is a strong financial argument behind the U.S. Postal Service's Cottage Grove consolidation plan, but what about convenience for the customers the postal service is trying to hold onto?
The old saying suggests that “neither snow nor rain nor heat…” will stop the mail from being delivered.
Two factors, however, are changing how people get and send their mail: economics and technology.
The resulting effects on the U.S. Postal Service are playing out at its operations across the country, and right here in Cottage Grove. The postal service plans to lock up and sell its main post office building on East Point Douglas Road. All customer service operations will be shifted to the postal service carrier annex on the west side of Highway 61.
The plan likely will be carried out by the end of the year. Sure, there is a 60-day public input period under way, but the decision seems all but a formality.
So why close the building just off Highway 61 in favor of maintaining a facility that is less convenient for a majority of Cottage Grove residents?
Enter the economics and technology factors.
Do you mail as many bills, letters and packages as you did a few years ago? How about when compared to 10 years ago? For many people, the answer is no. The postal service saw its peak mail volume in 2006, and it’s declined since. (First-class mail has dropped by half in the last 10 years, according to the postal service.)
Electronic communication and other mail delivery services have taken away business from the postal service. The Cottage Grove branch saw revenue drop 12 percent from 2008 to 2010, and its sales are down again this year.
The postal service says it can save $1 million over 10 years by consolidating, and the main post office is too small to absorb all of the operations, even after a 2007 renovation. Given the sales trend, it’s hard to argue against consolidation, though it certainly becomes less convenient for many customers.
The city does not have much, if any, say in the postal service’s decision, but Mayor Myron Bailey said he wants the postal service to consider adding technology to allow limited 24-hour service, as is available at some other post offices.
You can already buy stamps at grocery stores and ATM machines away from the post office, but your options are limited if you’re mailing packages. Adding an after-hours automated service to the carrier annex would be helpful. The postal service should consider that feature as it changes how it does business in Cottage Grove.