Finland post office changes slated for next year
By: LaReesa Sandretsky, Lake County News Chronicle
More than 30 people showed up at the Clair Nelson Center in Finland last week to give ideas and get answers about post office changes that will be affecting the community next year. U.S. Postal Service employees were on hand for the discussion.
“They said this is the biggest crowd they’ve had so far,” Finland resident Brenda van Bergen said.
Van Bergen attended the meeting to hear what others had to say. She said she won’t be too affected by the changes, which may entail having the office open only four hours per day instead of the current eight. She said her biggest concern — one echoed by many at the meeting — was that their local postmaster would be out of a full-time job.
“We hate to lose our people,” van Bergen said.
The USPS representatives said they are working on solving that problem. Many local post offices are slated for changes in the near future, including Beaver Bay, Brimson, Finland, Knife River, Lutsen, Schroeder and Tofte, and the USPS representatives said workers may be able to work two part-time shifts at different post offices to maintain their full-time status.
The reduction in hours is certain, but residents could give input concerning which hours the office will be open. The changes haven’t been decided, but will be implemented sometime after the January 12. Finland’s reduced hours are part of the USPS Post Plan.
That plan, introduced in September, will reduce retail window hours based on customer use. The plan is designed to save the USPS money while still keeping post offices open.
Nationwide, 13,000 post offices will be affected, including several hundred in Minnesota. It will take two years to implement. According to Peter Nowacki, Minnesota media contact for the USPS, the plan will save the USPS about $500 million a year.
“However, we’re running several billion in the red each year,” he said, so the Post Plan is only a small part of the equation.
Village Post Offices are also being considered as an option in some areas. VPOs would exist in local businesses and offer basic postal services to customers, such as selling stamps and housing P.O. boxes. This was considered as an option at the meeting in Finland, but for now, the post office will remain open in its own building.
Van Bergen said a big issue will be P.O. Box access — a few residents in the area live outside of USPS’s regular circulation routes and must retrieve their mail from P.O. boxes. Van Bergen said that problem could be solved by expanding mail delivery routes.
“I wish they could just expand their rural route a little bit,” she said.
While a Village Post Office and expanded rural routes might be in the future, after the changes take place, Finland residents will have just four hours a day to send packages and pick up their post office box mail at the local post office.