The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 6, 2013

Mankato customers not surprised by Postal Service announcement

By Robb Murray
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — Julie Carlson may have been a living, breathing, walking, talking reason for why the postal service is pulling back some of its services.

Standing in the lobby of the Mankato post office on Second Street, Carlson had come to mail a Valentine’s Day package. But before she could do so, she needed to find the recipient’s address.

So she did what more and more people are doing. She pulled out her smartphone, logged onto the Internet and found what she needed. Within a few seconds she was able to do something that was impossible a few years ago.

Technology continues to march on. And as it does, the country’s reliance on the old ways of doing things shrinks. Hence, the U.S. Postal Service’s decision — four years in the making — to discontinue Saturday mail delivery, which is set to take effect this summer.

How the decision will affect local postal workers remains unclear. But Pete Nowacki, a Postal Service spokesman, said he’s hoping for the best.

“We’re not planning on laying anybody off,” he said.

Having said that, Nowacki said it’s too soon to tell what will happen where. He said it’s a safe bet, though, that there will be reassignments and rerouting of mail carrier duties.

In some locations, they held off on hiring to fill job vacancies and instead covered their Saturday shifts with overtime hours for regular full-time carriers.

Also, the average age of the postal worker is climbing. It’s sitting right now at 54, which means they’ve got a good number of employees who are approaching retirement. This means they’ll probably be offering early retirement options to some workers.

Employment concerns aren’t new to area postal workers. The Free Press has reported that Mankato’s mail-processing center will be closed. Nowacki said that’s still the case as far as he knows. The future of small-town post offices also has been in the news. The Postal Service decided to close some small-town offices.

Some of those got a reprieve, however, after feedback from town residents.

“We learned a lot when we talked to people,” Nowacki said. “They’re pretty passionate about these places. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, ‘Can’t you keep it open for just a couple hours?’”

Many of those small offices did see window hours reduced.

As for Saturdays, Nowacki said they’re still planning on delivering packages on Saturdays, including medication.

The public’s reaction here so far has been mild.

Chris Ward, who stopped by the post office Wednesday to pick up stamps, said he’s not concerned about losing a day of mail delivery. He said he is concerned for the people who might lose their jobs, such as his own friendly postman. But he understands the societal switch to speedier delivery of communication.

“We live in a world where we want stuff right away,” he said.

He doesn’t envision using the mail any less. But he might be a little more anxious when expecting a piece of mail to come at the end of the week.

Chelsie Reese came to the post office to mail a few items before moving from Mankato to a new job in the Twin Cities. She said she’d like to have  mail delivery seven days a week but said the only real loss to losing Saturday delivery will be the convenience.

The Free Press asked for comments on its Facebook page, and several followers obliged.

* Robyn Devlaeminck: “I’m OK with this. Bills are sad and why ruin my Saturday!

* Kristina Schmahl: “They gotta cut somewhere and I think we will get use to it. We adjust when banks close down for every holiday, so I think we will adjust to this fine.”