MORGAN CITY -- About 40 residents attended a hearing Tuesday to learn about the feasibility study process as it relates to the possible closure of the downtown post office.
The postal system’s financial crisis began about 10 years ago as a result of technological advances that resulted in the loss of first class volume, according to Rachel Cousin, Post Office Marketing Manager for the State of Louisiana.
Customers began paying their bills online out of a respect for ecology or because of the ease of automation. Also, the bottom dropped out of the economy, causing a decline in the use of the postal system, Cousin explained.
In 2007, 210 billion pieces of mail were sent. By 2010, only 170 billion pieces of mail were sent, and the trend continues to fall. In 2010 alone, the postal system lost $10 billion. In 2011, the system lost $5 billion, she added.
The governmental agency is not funded by the government, she said, explaining the funding loss. It is solely funded by “across-counter sales.” The agency also is the only one required to pay $5.5 billion annually into a fund for future employee benefits. This fund is for the retirement of employees who are not yet employed by the postal system. Congress allowed the postal system not to pay into this fund in 2011, explaining the lowered loss in that year, Cousin said.
Because of the continued losses, the U.S. Post Office asked Congress to change laws including reducing delivery from six to five days a week. While considering its changes, Congress told the post office to make any changes it could to reduce financial losses.
This is where closure of small offices like the one in Morgan City come into play.
In addition to reducing mail processing plants in the state from nine to four, the postal system is looking at about 70 post offices in Louisiana that fall into two categories:
—They have about two hours of work per day.
—They have seen a decline in workload every year for three or four years.
Morgan City is in the second category.
However, just because it is in this category does not mean the downtown post office will close. The 70 post offices have been included for study, but they are being addressed as they affect their communities.
“On paper, this looks like the thing to do (but) we don’t know how it’s going to impact you in your community,” Cousin said.
The study is slated to last 120 days, but it will be longer before any post offices close because of a moratorium placed by Congress as it considers the laws it wants to enact, according to Post Office Discontinuance Coordinator Alfred Christophe.
The study timeframe began the day the notice was posted on the post office and questionnaires went out to postal customers. The earliest any post office would close would be May 16, he said.
Still, if the determination is made that the downtown post office will be closed, residents have the right to appeal the decision. He suggested they do so.
Cousin, Christophe and Post Office Operations Manager Joseph Porché reiterated multiple times that if residents had not sent in their questionnaires in support of the post office, they should do so. If they had but wish to add information, they still can. The deadline has been extended until Feb. 20. Questionnaires or letters concerning the situation may be dropped off at the downtown post office.
Local attorney C.E. Bourg said the reason the downtown branch office is falling down is that the postal system kept making more and more small post offices, thereby siphoning off business from the branches in Morgan City.
He also noted that moving the 500 postal boxes from the downtown branch to the main branch in Morgan City would create parking nightmares for the added customers, a point several other speakers voiced.
Morgan City Mayor Tim Matte also noted that the city already has made several accommodations to assist traffic in the area of the main branch. Relocating the customers of the downtown branch would “exacerbate traffic problems” in the area of the main branch, he said.
Bourg also pointed out that the downtown branch is housed in a “beautiful and historically significant building.” This is something that the postal speakers said could work in the branch’s favor.
Other speakers noted that it is part of the downtown historic walking trail for tourists and that it provides an anchor for businesses in the area.
Matte also pointed out that closing the downtown post office would impact the elderly and disadvantaged, many of whom walk to the post office because it is conveniently located for them.
He further noted that the post office and city hall are the anchors of the revitalization efforts of the downtown area. Closing one of them would be detrimental to those efforts as well as to all of the businesses in the area.
Parish Councilman Kevin Voisin and the mayor presented resolutions in support of keeping the post office from their various boards to the postal system.
Voisin also noted that if the office were kept better stocked, sales would improve. Often, he said, there are not stamps or boxes when they are needed by customers. This was reiterated by city employee Lisa Morgan, who handles the mail for City Hall across the street, and business owner Deborah Price, who said that half the time a roll of stamps is not available when needed.
Also, she noted that previous employees were not up to par.
“The management is what is sabotaging the downtown post office,” not the customers not utilizing it, she said. She added that customers are thrilled to have new employee Kari Morvant on the job.
“That post office can be profitable for you. You just have to give it a chance,” she said.
It was similar to the request made by Morvant herself.
She told Cousin and company that she can generate the revenue if given the stock to sell.
“Give me a chance,” she said, to the applause of the audience.