Douglas Post Office users likely will not know if their store will stay open or be closed until sometime next year.
The first public comment period on the proposal to close the downtown Douglas facility ends November 7th. That’s 60 days after more than 150 people packed a community meeting to oppose the idea.
U.S. Postal Service spokesman Ernie Swanson says comments from the meeting and collected since then will be incorporated into a recommendation to be made by Alaska Postal District Officials. The recommendation will then be considered by the USPS Western Area Office in Denver.
“The folks in Denver would have to agree with the decision in Alaska or send it back for reconsideration,” Swanson says. “Assuming they agree it would go on to headquarters, where the ultimate decision would be made. If that decision is to pursue the closure, it would be posted at the Douglas Post Office and people would have another 30 days to appeal the decision and those appeals would go to the Postal Regulatory Commission.”
The commission is an independent agency of the government that oversees postal rates and service matters. The commission will take 30 days to consider the the postmaster general’s decision and could ask the postal service to reconsider or make changes.
“That would obviously require some time for our follow-up,” Swanson says. “If they say we agree with your case and you may proceed with closure, it could happen not within the next 30 days but sometime after that. So it could conceivably happen – if it happens – sometime early is 2012.”
The Douglas Post Office is one of five Alaska facilities targeted for shutdown by the financially strapped USPS. The federal agency in July proposed closing 3,700 offices nationwide, including 36 in Alaska. Since then all the rural postal stations in the state have been spared. Douglas, Elmendorf Air Force Base, the Anchorage Postal Store, and Fairbanks’ Fort Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base Post Offices are still in question.
Proposal of Closure notices have gone up at the Eielson and Fort Wainwright stations, but Swanson says it doesn’t mean the post offices will be closed. Instead it triggers another period for customers to let the postal service know how they feel about it.
Alaska’s congressional delegation says the decision is likely founded on inaccurate information. In a letter sent yesterday (Thursday) to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, they asked for details of the decision as well as the method employed to calculate use rates of the post offices at each base.
Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski and Representative Don Young told Donahoe that thousands of soldiers, airmen and their families rely on the facilities and have no means of access to a post office off base.
They said both stations also made a profit in the last fiscal year.