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Reduction in USPS hours coming: Targeted cities include Taylor, Grassy Butte, Gladstone, Richardton

U.S. Postal Service carrier Sue Rebel pushes a cart full of mail toward the Dickinson Post Office on Wednesday. Although Dickinson isn't on a list of area post offices targeted for hours reduction, Taylor, Richardton, Grassy Butte and Gladstone are.

TAYLOR -- The window of availability for some small town post offices in the area could be narrowing soon and that has some southwest North Dakotans concerned.

Keeping with a plan that was announced earlier this year, the U.S. Postal Service is moving forward with a cost-cutting strategy centered on cutting the window hours of some rural post offices.

Area post offices that will likely see hour reductions include Taylor, Richardton, Grassy Butte and Gladstone. Most area post offices would go from being open eight hours per weekday to being open for either four or six hours daily. Taylor's facility would be cut to four hours, though it's unclear whether it would be open in the morning or afternoon.

A community meeting will take place at the Taylor Lutheran Church beginning at 5:30 p.m. today to discuss the proposed change -- a cutback from six hours -- at the post office there.

"It would be a little sad," said Taylor resident Helen Christianson. "It would change our lifestyle in a way. If it has to be, it has to be, though. We're happy to still have a post office."

Before hosting a meeting on the subject, residents of a targeted community are sent a letter from the USPS asking if they prefer a reduction of window hours, the closing of the facility, only having the facility provide P.O. box service or contracting postal services out to a private interest.

USPS spokesman Pete Nowacki, Minnesota, said in most cases the response has been to keep local facilities open with reductions of window hours, seemingly the lesser evil of the four options. Nowacki said Taylor is the first small community in southwest North Dakota to host a community meeting on the topic.

"What we're looking at is cutting hours at about 13,000 of a total of 31,000 post offices that we have nationwide," Nowacki said. "From the feedback that we've gotten so far, it's obvious people want their small-town facilities to stay open, if possible."

Nowacki said nothing would change with the Taylor post office's hours until January at the earliest. Meeting dates for other communities have not been determined.

"I look at the positive -- Taylor is still going to have a post office," said Taylor USPS Officer in Charge Darcy Uzdilla, who started at the location in September. "I'll miss the hours, but I was aware something like this might happen. From what I understand, it's something that, if hours are to be reduced, could be revisited again in the future."

Clara Paulson, who along with her husband, Ingvald, lives north of Taylor, said the topic has been a hot one in the community of late. The couple said they plan to attend today's meeting.

"People would like to see the post office here stay open longer," Clara said. "It's a concern people have, probably more so with people who live in town."

Other area post offices that could see a drop in hours include those in Golden Valley, New Salem, Halliday, New England, Reeder, Regent, Scranton and South Heart. The USPS has stated that access to a facility's retail lobby and P.O. boxes would remain unchanged and a community's zip code would remain in the event of hour reductions.

The USPS retail window plan of realignment will be implemented in a multi-phased approach over the course of the next two years, according to a USPS release.

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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