by nathan oster
The Shell Post Office won’t be closing, but its hours will soon be reduced as the U.S. Postal Service tries to streamline its operations in Wyoming and around the country.
$3 billion. That’s how much the USPS lost last year, according to Gary Sims, manager of post office operations for the state of Wyoming.
Sims was in Shell Thursday night, talking to a group of about 35 local residents who had gathered to discuss the fate of their post office, which is currently open eight hours a day Monday through Friday and three hours every Saturday.
Sims said within the first two minutes of his presentation that the USPS had no intention of closing the Shell Post Office.
“We know how important post offices are to small rural communities,” Sims said, adding later in the meeting that nearly half of the approximately 142 post offices in Wyoming are in line for some sort of reduction in business hours.
Prior to the meeting, the USPS sent surveys to 162 Shell Post Office users. Seventy-two of them were returned to the USPS. And 86 percent (62) of the respondents favored the idea of realigning the post office’s hours of operations. On eight of the remaining 10 surveys, no selection was made.
Based on that survey and its own operational needs, the USPS proposed a reduction in hours to four, Monday through Friday, with the window of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. recommended.
Several other Big Horn County post offices are also looking at reductions. Among them, Cowley would drop from eight to six each day, Byron from eight hours to four.
Sims said the USPS based its recommendations on the amount of revenue that comes across the counter and the amount of mail that each post office receives.
He emphasized that the USPS has no intention of changing Saturday office hours in Shell. The proposal sets those from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“We’re not touching Saturdays,” he said, pointing out that Saturday is actually one of the most profitable days of the entire week for the USPS.
Sims said the USPS hasn’t considered closing the Shell Post Office, nor would it as long as someone is available to work there — and right now, a person is in place to do jus tthat.
Mary Flitner, who was among the residents in attendance, said a lot of people use the Shell Post Office to buy their stamps and mail their packages.
Sims emphasized that if Shell customers want to help the cause of their post office, the best way to do so would be by buying stamps and mailing their packages directly from the Shell Post Office, rather than doing so in area post offices such as Greybull, Worland or Billings.
“(Revenue) is the driving force of what will drive decisions regarding this post office,” he said. “You need to do your business here.”
Sims clarified that the USPS looks at “walk in revenue” — and that customers who buy their stamps online or elsewhere and then mail their letters in Shell aren’t adding to the revenue of the Shell Post Office.
Sims said the USPS is proposing no changes to any of the mail delivery routes — and that what is being proposed deals only with the hours of operations of certain post offices in the state.
Sims said the USPS is “looking at everything” in an attempt to solve its financial troubles, including stopping Saturday delivery. Just by dropping down to five days a week, the USPS would save about $2 billion annuallly, he said.
Some audience members asked about whether the USPS could post a stamp vending machine somewhere in the community to make up for the hours cut from the post office. But Sims said the USPS has pulled every vending machine nationwide.
For people needing stamps, Dirty Annie’s currently has a limited number available. And Jim McLauchlan, who owns the business, said he plans to continue to provide that service.
Another topic of discussion centered on packages that arrive for pickup at the Shell Post Office. With reduced hours, customers will have smaller windows in which to pick up their packages.
There are currently four parcel lockers at the post office, and it was pointed out that the USPS could put a key to the locker in the mailbox of the package’s recipient so that it could be picked up after hours.
The final, and perhaps most important, issue of the night dealt with the specific hours of operation for the Shell Post Office. The USPS had suggested 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but Shell residents who attended the meeting asked spoke in unison about wanting those hours pushed back — either from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. or from noon until 4 p.m.
After the meeting, Sims said he planned to send a notice to the post office in the near future, informing customers of the new hours. As of Monday, that notice had not arrived in Shell.
Sims said the reduced hours could take effect within one to two months.
by nathan oster