DEPUE — Around 50 residents crammed into the DePue Post Office Tuesday afternoon with concerns about the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) closing down their location.
Gary Patten, a USPS Post Plan coordinator, hosted a community meeting to clear the air. He announced DePue is not closing — it’s not even changing retail hours. The only difference residents will see is a later delivery time of their post office box mail.
Patten said DePue is an unique situation compared to 13,000 other post offices around the country that are seeing reduced retail hours.
“They’re getting reduced to either two, four, six hours a day. That’s for the retail window,” he said. “But the postal service has decided to keep DePue at six hours service a day. We’re not changing retail hours like it said on the sheet of paper you received in the mail.”
The post plan is reducing the amount of hours for employees.
“They won’t be here early in the morning, so they won’t have as much time to work that P.O. box mail exclusively,” Patten said. “As soon as they get into the office, the door will open for retail business ... instead of working on the box mail and getting that done earlier. They’re going to have to do both at the same time.”
Right now, residents are being told to expect box mail to arrive around noon.
Patten said this new post plan is one of many changes going on nationwide.
“It’s about $1.5 billion in savings for this plan nation-wide,” he said. “We won’t have full-time employees making the same amount of full-time benefits at a lot of these small offices.”
Patten explained some will remember about two years ago when the postal service held meetings in many smaller towns to talk about the process of closing them down.
“As you can imagine that idea went up like a lead balloon. So in response to that, the postal service came up with this plan that matches up the retail hours to the amount of business actually being conducted at each of these post offices,” he said. “Some places are only going to be open for two hours a day, so we’re trying to tell people to conduct as much business as they can at their local post office.
“Generally, many of us work in a different town and tend to conduct business at those post offices. That negatively impacts the local post offices. The postal service doesn’t care where you conduct business, but your local postmaster cares because this changes business,” he continued.
Because of the new change, DePue Postmaster Dana Dickens has decided to step down and retire from her position after 32 years.
“The job was offered to me. I could have walked into the part-time position … But with the pay cut and hours cut, I was actually going to gross more money a month being retired,” she said.
Dickens said she’s not ready to retire, but she had put her years in and the decision made sense.
In talking about the postal change, she said she had realized for a while now that something had to give.
“With the economics and mail volume dropping, and to realize with the large fleet we have, when gas goes up just one penny a gallon, it really affects the post offices’ budget,” she said.
Dickens, who was DePue’s first female postmaster when she started in 1999, said it’s been a pleasure working with the postal service, and it’s been great getting to know everyone in the community.
Changes at the DePue Post Office will not occur until the end of September.
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