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The bust amid the boom: Gladstone, Taylor residents meet with USPS as it plans to cut hours

U.S. Postal Service representative Wanda Cleveland addresses a packed house in the basement of the Taylor Lutheran Church Wednesday night. Cleveland presented a plan to residents that would cut the window hours for the town's post office in half.

TAYLOR -- Shortened hours are coming for some rural North Dakota post offices and Taylor is one community that could be getting the short end of the stick.

At community meetings in Gladstone and Taylor on Wednesday, residents learned the fate of their respective post office's window availability as customers heard the U.S. Postal Service's plan to slice in half hours at both locations.

In Gladstone, about 40 residents attempted to pack in the town's tiny post office lobby for a meeting emceed by USPS representative Wanda Cleveland.

"Infrastructure in western North Dakota is growing at the fastest rate seen in years," said Gladstone Mayor Kurt Martin. "We need to expand faster. Why would the post office go to a slowdown of its infrastructure?"

Attempting to curb the rate of mounting debt against it, the USPS, as part of a new nationwide cost-cutting measure, will cut hours at its facilities in Gladstone and Taylor, Cleveland said. The two locations will be open 22 hours per week -- four hours per weekday and two hours on Saturdays -- once the plan takes effect sometime in early 2013.

According to the plan, Gladstone will have its post office open from 8 a.m. until noon weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on Saturdays while the Taylor post office will be open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and for two hours Saturday afternoons.

"I would like to keep (the hours) the same," said Taylor resident Barb Beggs during her town's meeting at the Taylor Lutheran Church attended by about 60. "But that wasn't an option on the survey we received."

Residents in both communities were mailed a survey listing four available options -- a reduction in window hours, closing the facility, only having the USPS provide P.O. box service or contracting postal services out to a local business.

In Taylor, 224 surveys were mailed out with 94 being returned while the Gladstone community was sent 350 surveys and returned 109, according to the USPS. In both cases, the overwhelming majority of respondents chose the "realignment of hours" option.

Some residents in Gladstone complained that they had received notice of Wednesday's meeting which began at 4 p.m. by mail earlier the same day.

Cleveland said the decision to choose which affected post offices would be open in the morning as opposed to the afternoon was made by USPS headquarters. In both cases, it was clear residents preferred their office to be opened in the morning.

"This isn't a very good option for my business," said Dakota Community Bank & Trust Branch Manager Vickie Solemsaas during the Taylor meeting. "If I have to close out at 2:30 and my customers don't have their mail available to them until after 1, that's a detriment to my customers. Basically, a day would be lost."

Taylor USPS Officer in Charge Darcy Uzdilla mentioned that it didn't seem convenient for her customers for the Taylor post office to be open during the Saturday hours of 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

"Most people have that day off and a lot of times, they like to go do things," Uzdilla said. "If they need to go to the post office, that's kind of inconvenient."

Although Cleveland said nothing presented on Wednesday was "set in stone" yet, she also said the chances of the USPS moving forward with its plan as it stands are "very good." Cleveland added that carrier routes would not be affected by the change in hours and that the USPS is scheduled to re-evaluate the plan in 2014, at which point certain changes could be made.

Other area post offices that could see a reduction in hours include those in Richardton, Grassy Butte, Golden Valley, New Salem, New England, Reeder, Regent, Halliday, South Heart and Scranton. The USPS is planning to cut window hours at up to 13,000 locations nationwide.

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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