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Postal Service eyes closures

The Kenneth Post Office has been notified that it is one of two in the area that could be closed by the United States Postal Service. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)1 / 2
The interior of the Kenneth Post Office features old style postal boxes and a single window that serve the customers. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)2 / 2

Dovray, Kenneth offices targeted

WORTHINGTON -- The fate of post offices in Dovray and Kenneth are in the hands of the United States Postal Service (USPS), and maybe, of their customers.

According to Peter Nowacki, the USPS media contact for Minnesota and North and South Dakota, the process has already begun in Dovray with a public meeting that took place last week. A similar meeting will take place in Kenneth at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Kenneth Community Center. All customers should have been notified by mail of the meetings.

After that meeting, there is a 60 day period of information gathering by the USPS.

"We collect information and responses from customers," Nowacki explained. "People can write to us and make it part of the record. At the end of the 60 days, all information goes to postal headquarters for final review."

If postal headquarters decides to go ahead with the closing, the decision is posted in that office and nearby offices for an additional 30 days.

"Any customer can choose to appeal that decision to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). If that happens, the PRC has an additional 120 days to review before a final decision can come down," Nowacki stated. "It is a fairly long, fairly complicated process."

At the upcoming meeting in Kenneth, there will be a presentation that explains why the USPS is looking at that office. A representative will talk about what would happen as far as delivery and give information on what kinds of service carriers can offer.

"Customers can buy stamps and mail packages through a carrier," Nowacki explained.

After the presentation, the representative takes feedback from customers who attend.

"If you have questions, that would be the time to ask them," Nowacki said.

In many rural communities, the local post office is the nerve center of a small town, providing a gathering place where information and neighborly chit-chat is exchanged. But, according to Nowacki, that isn't the postal service's concern or problem.

"I can't answer to what makes up a community and what doesn't." he stated. "Our job is to provide delivery and postal retail services as best we can. With the decline in mail volume and workload, we really have to take a look at all possible opportunities to do things better and more efficiently."

The USPS has lost 20 percent of its business in the last five years, he explained, and has been looking at all of its operations -- in particular, offices where there has been a declining workload.

"We look to see if there's a way we can provide an alternate service-- if we can provide effective service through alternate means," Nowacki said.

They also take other things into account, such as whether there is a sitting postmaster at the office, what the proximity of other offices is, and what kind of impact a potential closing would have on customers.

If the USPS does decide to close an office, Nowacki said the customers in that area keep the same zip code and do not have an address change.

"The community identification still stands," he added.

Those with post office boxes can either go to carrier delivery or can get a post office box at a different office, the latter of which would change their mailing address. But for those who wander out to fetch their mail from a mailbox on their property, there should be no impact whatsoever, Nowacki said.

Other than the Dovray and Kenneth offices, and the Clements office in Redwood County, Nowacki was not aware of any other sites in southwest Minnesota that are currently on the potential chopping block.

"Not to say it won't happen," he added. "We're looking at all sorts of small offices."