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A glimmer of hope for rural post offices

December 16, 2011
The Inter-Mountain

Right in the middle of the United States Postal Service's busiest time of year comes a glimmer of hope that its continuing financial woes may see some respite.

On Tuesday, the Postal Service agreed to delay until mid-May the closing of thousands of its facilities. U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and 21 other senators prompted that decision with a letter asking that Congress be given time to act on postal reform legislation.

In a statement released Tuesday, Rockefeller pointed out that the Mountain State "faces a disproportionate number of closures and consolidations, particularly when compared to much larger states like California, which are not as heavily impacted."

The mail processing center in Petersburg is among the 252 operations throughout the country slated for potential closure. Numerous rural post offices throughout our readership area also appeared on a list earlier this year of sites being studied.

In recent months, residents have rallied at county commission meetings seeking support to keep post offices open in Pickens, Helvetia and the Lewis County community of Ireland, among others. All shared the reasoning that many elderly people would have to travel a great distance for postal service if their facilities were to cease business. They also cited their post offices as "gathering points" to obtain community information.

There's no denying that the Postal Service is in a deep financial crisis. Today it's expected to default on a $5.5 billion payment to the U.S. Treasury, and is forecast to lose $14.1 billion next year, The Associated Press reports.

We're unsure whether the closure of these tiny, rural post offices in West Virginia will make much of a difference in the Postal Service's overall financial future. We're also uncertain whether these local facilities will be included in Congress' pending legislation. What we do know is the residents of these small communities consider the services essential.

Congress has a lot on its agenda in the coming months. It's our hope that postal reform stays near the top of the list and West Virginia doesn't get left behind.



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