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offi ces that take in less than $27,000 a year, many of which have already cut working hours down to as little as two hours a day. A sign in the window of the Bunch post offi ce listing shorter hours mirrors a statewide trend. States like Oklahoma with large rural populations will be the most affected Herb Crawford of Proctor, Okla. (Population 130), a retired air industry worker, receives medica- tions through the mail that cannot be left in his RFD box where they could be damaged by weather. Instead, he picks them up at the post offi ce. He will have to drive to the Tahlequah post to retrieve them if the Proctor offi ce closes down as scheduled. “Roundtrip to Tahlequah is over 30 miles,” says Proctor, a member of Ozarks Electric Cooperative. “It’ll be an inconvenience. I’ll probably switch to Fe- dEx. FedEx will deliver right to my door.” Postal employees nationwide have been ordered not to discuss the matter with the media. How- ever, USPS Public Relations and Communications spokesperson Dionne Montague maintains that fi - nal decisions have not been made on closures. Com- munity meetings are currently being held to receive feedback on hardships that might be incurred by rural seniors and other local populations. “We’ve been to the hearings,” says L.C. Peck of Bunch, father of John Peck. “It doesn’t do any good. We’re at the end of the road and people at the end of the road don’t get it.” Montague explains that “village post offices” would replace many of the offi ces scheduled to be closed. A village post offi ce farmed out to a local


retailer such as a convenience store or gas station would offer the same services as the local post of- fi ce, even down to post offi ce boxes. “Contract busi- nesses” lower on the scale would sell stamps and accept mail but offer few other services. Like many similar Oklahoma settlements, neither Bunch nor Proctor has an operating business that can host a village or contract post offi ce. Farmers and ranchers would be forced to drive long distanc- es to the nearest surviving post offi ce. “Rural delivery of mail will not be affected,” Mon-


tague stresses. “Mail will still be delivered to your RFD boxes. It will merely be received and sorted at a different location.”


According to Montague, lawmakers concerned about leaving constituents without convenient mail service have pressured Congress and the USPS to delay proposed closures and consolidations until at least May 15, 2012, in hopes that legislation will prop up the agency’s fi nances. The USPS fears that fewer and fewer people will continue to use the U.S. Mail if post offices are closed. Instead, they will switch to private carriers like FedEx and UPS, creating a further downward spiral in terms of postal service fi nances. However, Dionne Montague strikes a positive note, “Mail service is not going anywhere. It is part of the American fabric. We might do things differ- ently, but we will still be delivering the mail, and delivering it to every household.” OL


Above: The Proctor post offi ce is scheduled for closure in 2012. Below: Herb Crawford picks up his medications by mail at the Proctor post offi ce in northeastern Oklahoma. If the post offi ce closes, he will either have to drive to Tahlequah or turn to FedEx. Photos by Charles Sasser


MARCH 2012 27


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