April 27, 2011

Keene residents struggle with loss of post office

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

The local post office is a staple in any community, but what happens when the office closes? This is something that Keene residents are just recently learning about. At first glance one may not even notice a change. But when you look closer, you see that there is no longer a drop box for mail outside of the Keene Post Office, and it has gone from being open four hours per day to being closed indefinitely
“I’ve had a post office box all of my life,” says Keene resident Amy Zimmiond. “I can’t say that I’m shocked about the closing, but it is going to be a big change.”
Big changes are nothing new to McKenzie County. The difference with this change is that it is a downsizing versus the growth that the county has become accustomed to seeing.
“The Keene Post Office wasn’t closed,” says Peter Nowacki, United States Postal Service media communications. “The office is on emergency suspension because the Officer in Command resigned and we have not been able to find a qualified replacement.”
Two weeks prior to the April 15 closing, boxholders received a letter stating that unless a replacement was found, the Keene Post Office may be closing.
“When we received the letter, a lot of us went on a mission to find someone to fill the position,” comments Nancy Rolfsrud, a Keene resident. “But it seemed that no matter what we tried, the office was going to close.”
The Keene Post Office had 37 boxholders, and like other post offices in western North Dakota, the number of boxholders was growing, which is what makes this new development so hard for Keene residents to understand.
“I’ve seen it coming and there are a lot of people who are angry about it,” says Rolfsrud. “When the hours dropped down to four hours a day, you could kind of see this happening.”
Some residents feel that the office was forced to close because it was only open four hours a day.
“The postmaster is expected to work six days a week, and when it is only four hours a day, it ties up your entire day and there were no benefits, so I can’t blame people for not wanting the position,” adds Rolfsrud.
According to Nowacki, the office was not closed, it was only placed on emergency suspension. But there is no plan in place to get it opened back up.
“At this time, there is no plan and the future of the Keene Post Office is uncertain,” states Nowacki. “We are not looking for a replacement for the Officer in Command. However, the local carrier does have stamps with her and she can take care of customers’ packages, so postal service is still available to the community.”
“This is a great loss to the community,” adds Rolfsrud. “The post office is a hub of the community, just like the gas station and the cafe. We will really miss it.”
Of the 37 boxholders, 13 will continue getting their mail at a cluster of boxes outside of the post office, while others have moved their boxes to other cities or are putting boxes out at their homes.
“The cluster of boxes has not showed up yet, but Donna Berg, the local mail delivery driver, has been great to us,” adds Rolfsrud. “It’s not her job to deliver our mail, but she is stopping at our houses every other day to deliver it. I know that we all appreciate her doing that.”
With the future of the Keene Post Office uncertain, residents are forced to change their ways and hope that they don’t lose any more hubs in their small community.