Need for downtown P.O. under review
By: GEOFFREY STOUTE
Following a significant dip in mail volume in recent years, the postal services in Morgan City are among many across the nation that the U.S. Postal Service is examining as the federal agency moves to cut costs and use its resources more efficiently to serve its customers.
McKinney Boyd, U.S. Postal Service spokesman for the Louisiana district, said this morning that the feasibility study in Morgan City is among more than 3,700 full or limited service locations the U.S. Postal Service is studying to determine whether they are needed.
Boyd said that during the last five years, the postal services’ use by the public has dipped as deliveries have declined by more than 43 billion pieces of mail.
With that dip in public use, Boyd said, has come a “sincere loss of revenue.”
Boyd said the U.S. Postal Service lost more than $5.5 billion during the past year and would have lost an additional $5.5 billion if Congress had not allowed them to defer employee health benefit payments until this August.
Boyd said at the moment, the postal service has too many facilities to process the amount of mail they have.
“We have a responsibility to try to reduce our expenses,” Boyd said. “This is a way we can reduce our expenses and still provide an effective service to the community of Morgan City.”
If all of these post office facilities or finance stations — offices that only provide post office box services and sell stamps and box packages — are closed, the post office projects it can save more than $3 billion annually, “and still maintain efficient service to the public.”
The Morgan City branch in question, at Everett and First streets, operates as a finance station. Among those holding mail boxes at the facility are City Hall, which is located across First Street.
The post office at Brashear Avenue and Victor II Boulevard provides the same services, while letter carriers also work out of these facilities.
Currently, the postal service is under a congressional moratorium in which it has agreed not to close any post offices until after May 15.
Boyd said any decision to close post office facilities after that date would not be made for an additional 120 days.
Currently, only two retail clerks are assigned to the downtown branch, and if the branch were to close, Boyd said these employees would be reassigned to the Victor II branch.
However, Boyd said that the public would be a key factor in this decision.
Not only can residents impacted or living in the service area voice their views at the public hearings — required by law to be offered before any closures can take place — but they also can appeal to the Postal Regulatory Commission expressing their views on the matter. More information is available at its www.prc.gov.
“Those letters will determine whether or not an appeal is given to that particular office,” Boyd said.
As far as how real a possibility exists that the downtown post office would be closed, Boyd said it is difficult to determine at this point.
He called the situation “fluid” because, after the moratorium is lifted, then the postal service will have to submit its proposed changes for approval, and the Postal Regulatory Commission will have to hear any public appeals. Hence, the 120-day period.
If a closure does take place, Boyd said the U.S. Postal Service is confident it has room for expansion of its post office boxes at the Victor II branch.
When it was built in 1932, the downtown branch was the main post office for Morgan City.
By 1966, there was a need for a more spacious facility, which was built at Victor II Boulevard and Brashear Avenue.
In December 1982, the U.S. Post Office downtown was entered into the National Register of Historic Places.
The idea of closing the downtown branch is not new.
Morgan City Councilman Larry Bergeron, who represents the area where the downtown post office is located, said the city was able to convince the U.S. Postal Service to keep the branch open approximately 20 years ago.
While he said the city would do what it can to keep the post office open because it is convenient to the public — a resolution opposing the closure was passed at Tuesday’s council meeting. Bergeron didn’t sound optimistic that the city would be able to keep it open this time.
“Right now I’m not sure what good we’re going to do requesting” that it stay open, he said. “They’re closing post offices in small communities (nationwide).”
As for the surrounding area, Boyd was not sure if any other post offices in the area were at risk for closure.