Campus residents argue against post office closure

_Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated that the Postal Regulatory Commission will make the final decision on the post offices’ closure. In fact, the USPS will make the final decision. This article has been corrected._

The University Station postal location inside Altgeld Hall and Station “A” at 302 E. Green St., Champaign, are among the 3,700 post offices and stations nationwide under consideration for shutdown. A town hall-style meeting was held Tuesday in the Illini Union to discuss the possible shutdowns and their ramifications on the community.

Michael Pfundstein, manager of post office operations in Champaign, began the meeting laying out the United States Postal Service’s financial situation. He stressed that the USPS is not funded by taxpayers but rather is supported entirely by fees, and thus is affected by a decrease in postal volume.

“This year, we will have 43 billion pieces of mail fewer than we had in 2007,” he said. “Every one of those 43 billion would have had a stamp.”

Pfundstein also pointed out that while less mail is being delivered, it is being delivered to more people as the population of the U.S. increases.

This requires more labor and Pfundstein said labor cost comprises about 80 percent of the USPS’ total budget.

“That has put us in a bind financially to the extent that at the end of our fiscal year, we were approximating a 10 billion dollar deficit,” he said.

Champaign City Council member Michael La Due was among the first to comment at the meeting. La Due advocated on behalf of international students, as their transportation options are limited for accessing post offices beyond the campus district.

“Their lifelines to their native homes is through Station ‘A’ or Altgeld,” he said.

Retired mail carrier and Urbana resident Robert Swanson took the microphone with two pages of handwritten notes prepared. He told the stories of three local public figures, including U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-15, who depended on the services of Station “A.” Johnson had his mail faxed or forwarded to him by Station “A” when he was unable to receive it.

“Without the post office, these people would not have been able to perform their duties,” Swanson said.

Swanson said he relies heavily on Station “A” and cannot easily get to other post offices on the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District bus routes.

The issue of accessibility was brought up by Urbana resident Elizabeth Weiss, who requires a wheelchair to get around. Weiss said she has given up getting to post offices in Urbana because of the inconvenience available travel options. Weiss said the shutdown of either station would be a huge loss for herself and the community.

“I’d be really be up in a creek if Station ‘A’ was closed,” she said. “As a person with a disability, Station ‘A’ has been a godsend.”

Though University students were in the minority at the meeting, a few took the microphone to voice their opinions about the possible shutdowns. Andrew Taylor, senior in Engineering, pointed out what he considers the economic flaws in the proposal.

He has a Post Office box in Station “A” and is confronted with a line in the station more often than not.

“If you close both of these post offices, you’re going to be locking yourself out of an enormous market,” he said.

After the 10-day “community input” period, the USPS will make a decision about the 3,700 offices. The Postal Regulatory Commission can hear petitions from post offices within 30 days of the decision and send the decision back to USPS if the commission feels the decision was not justified, but USPS has the final say.

The notes on Tuesday’s meeting will be sent to the Vice President of Delivery and Post Office operation, who will aid in the commission’s decision. Pfundstein said the success of an appeal will depend on how vocal the constituents are.

“Tonight everyone was very passionate about how the Postal Service fits into this University community,” he said.