Milesville Post Office faces closure

For many small, rural South Dakota towns their local post office has been the mainstay of their area, even after all the other business have left.

Recent announcements and meetings by the United States Postal Service have left many western South Dakota residents feeling angry and frustrated about the closing of their post offices. Towns can be spaced a fair distance apart in western South Dakota with a jaunt of 15, 20 or more miles just to get to the closest post office. Now with the  USPS's proposal of closing 74 small post offices in South Dakota, they will be traveling even further for basic postal services.

Steve Carter, Post Office Operations manager for Area II, has been traveling to individual towns to discuss the possible closure with area residents. Last Wednesday, September 21, he was in Milesville. More than 40 residents came to the Milesville Hall to hear what he had to say. He discussed why the postal service made the decision to make the cuts. Milesville residents will have to utilize the Philip Post Office, which is 29 miles from Milesville, or the Midland Post Office, which is 55 miles. Those residents north of Milesville will have even farther to travel. The Milesville Post Office currently serves 67 mail recipients on two routes.

Many of the residents left feeling as frustrated as their counterparts from other towns had. The general impression has been one that the postal service is letting the residents have a chance to speak, but their plans will not change.

Within two days of the meeting, the Milesville Post Office was mailed a letter directed to its customers. The letter invites the customers to submit their comments on the proposal to close the Milesville Post Office. They will be allowed to submit comments for 60 days, September 22 to November 23. Copies of the proposal and comment forms are available at the Milesville, Midland and Philip post offices. USPS study documents regarding the closures are available for residents to read at the Milesville Post Office.

The Pollock (S.D.) Prairie Press reported Carter said the changing conditions in how people contact each other has caused a decline of 43.1 billion pieces of mail or other transactions in the last five years.

The americantowns.com website reported, "As technology and the Web reshape contemporary lifestyles, it's no surprise newer communications are affecting the mail. Online billing, text messaging, email and Web advertising have each played a part in decreasing mail volume and post office foot traffic in recent years. Most of the offices targeted for closures now have roughly enough activity to fill only a two-hour work day."

The website quoted Maine Senator Susan Collings, " ' Maintaining our nations's rural post offices costs the Postal Services less than one percent of its total budget and is not the cause of the financial crisis.' "

The paper also reported Carter said that Congress had passed legislation that stated Saturday delivery should remain.

In West River, the USPS has slated along with Milesville the towns of Howes, Allen, Belvidere, Bullhead, Caputa, Enning, Herrick, Lantry, Fairburn, Manderson, Little Eagle, Mound City, Meadow, Norris, Pringle, Redig, Reva, Ridgeview, St. Onge, Scenic, White Owl, Wood and Wounded Knee for possible closure. Also three closures in South Dakota are in county seats, Gann Valley in Buffalo County, Olivet in Hutchinson County, and Mound City in Campbell County. Gann Valley is an unincorporated town of 14 people, Olivet has a population of 74 and Mound City has 71 people, according to the 2010 census.

On top of this is the USPS's proposal to close the Rapid City mail sorting facility. The facility pro-cesses all mail for zip codes that start with a 577, roughly the western quarter of the state. Instead, mail would be sent to Casper, Wyo., for sorting.

From the Rapid City Journal - Governor Dennis Daugaard spoke out against the proposal, "I know the postal service needs to become more efficient, but this would have a significant adverse effect on mail service in western South Dakota. Rapid City is a larger city than Casper and is at the center of a larger outlying population base."