by Steve Peterson
A crowd of about 20 Westfield Post Office customers gathered for a meeting called by the United States Postal Service
(USPS) about the future of the Westfield Post Office.
Kent Gochenour, manager, Post Office Operations for Northwest Iowa, told the Westfield Community Center gathering Oct. 25 that Westfield, Zip Code 51062, will keep Post Office hours, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., under the direction of the Akron Post Office, starting probably in January.
He described the compromise as a win-win for the communities and the USPS.
“The hours would depend on the mail volume, population and could be two hour, four hour and six hours based on what they actually earn on retail revenues and volume of mail. I will have 80 of the 124 Post Offices I’m responsible for that will have hours reduced. Thirty-two will be reduced over the next couple of years. The ones that we are reducing now, there is not a sitting postmaster,” said Gochenour.
According to 69 survey results sent in of a total of 235, 70 percent of those responding about the future selected realignment of hours. Only two, 3 percent, selected the “nearby Post Office option”, which would be Akron, 5.5 miles away; Elk Point, S.D., 10.4 miles away; and North Sioux City, 19.1 miles away.
“The Post Office has done a nice job of keeping us informed. We used to have two routes here but one went to Akron. Not having a Post Office would mean one more reason not to go to a town, and our businesses use it during the day,” said Westfield Mayor Bill Hummel.
“Congratulations! Small towns have been heard by the Post Office and its Consumer Affairs Division,” said Gochenour. “It depends on a lot of things (the number of hours), including volume, population and retail traffic. Small towns made enough noise.”
Saturday hours, which have been on the proposed cuts for months, would be 10:45 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. if they continue.
Gochenour explained that the hour increments will be two, four and six hours. A total of 50 Post Offices, mostly rural, are being slotted in this format, while an additional 30 could be considered for such actions within a couple of years.
Gochenour said something must be done to help the USPS’s bottom line.
“People don’t use the mail to pay their bills anymore or mail their tax forms on tax day. We have lost business to the Internet and we don’t think it is coming back. We have been helped by more people shipping packages due to online purchases and more political mailings and the economy is starting to pick up,” said Gochenour.
“Total Saturday window service hours will not be reduced and access to delivery receptacles will not change as a result of the POST Plan realignment of weekday window service hours. We will take into account all information received at this meeting before making a final decision. Access to delivery receptacles will not be reduced from current hours,” according to an information handout.
“I live in South Dakota and I come to the Westfield Post Office daily. I give the USPS thousands of dollars a year,” said resident Jim Wennbloom.
“We moved here so the boys could attend a small school. The Saturday hours suit me fine. I leave everyday at 6:30 a.m. and am not back until 5 p.m.,” said Beth Terpstra.
Local Postal officials Akron Postmaster Craig Bobier and current Westfield Interim Postmistress Diane DeRocher attended the Thursday meeting.
A posting at the Post Offices of the plan and a public comment period will now take place. Hours can be adjusted based on local needs but it is “highly unlikely” a return to full-time status, said Gochenour.
“Across the state we’re putting in a lot of these plans in,” said Gochenour, so the exact time frame may be a little different for implementation.