Rico Mayor Barbara Betts told KOTO Radio News on Monday: “We’re very grateful. [Keeping the post office open] will help a lot of businesses and a lot of us on a personal basis.”
The USPS announced in August that roughly 3,700 post offices across the country could face closure or consolidation over the next year, stemming from nearly $8 billion in budget deficits this year. Closing rural offices is one way the organization can cut costs.
In deciding whether post offices will stay open or get the axe, small communities like Rico have been or will be reviewed according to three criteria: how much money they bring in, how many hours of work are performed there each day, and how close they are to other post offices.
In Rico’s case, being small put them on the closure list in the first place. But being more rural than most – it’s 37 miles one-way to the nearest full-service post office in Dolores – ultimately saved them from the chopping block. USPS spokesperson David Rupert said Rico’s remote location played a big part in keeping that branch open.
In Colorado, more than 60 offices are still up for review, including those in the Western Slope communities of Redvale, Paradox, Bedrock, Mesa Verde National Park, Powderhorn, Yellow Jacket, Molina (on Grand Mesa,) Lazear (near Hotchkiss,) as well as the San Miguel County towns of Ophir and Egnar.
In September, Colorado Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet wrote a letter to the chairwoman of the Postal Regulatory Commission, urging that any community not meeting all three criteria be removed from consideration.
"As you know, small and remote communities, especially in rural and mountain regions like Colorado, often depend on the local post office as an accessible representation of the federal government and for their mail service," the letter reads. "These Colorado residents and business owners are understandably worried that retail discontinuance of some of the post offices could negatively affect their businesses, the vitality of their respective communities, and constrain their choices, causing them to embark upon costly and time-consuming commutes to distant postal facilities that are often difficult and dangerous to reach in the winter months."
The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.
On November 21, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe encouraged Congress to be more proactive in assisting the Postal Service in its struggle to stay afloat, asking lawmakers to consider legislation that would enable the organization to quickly implement cost cutting measures – essentially, allowing it to operate more like a business.
“America needs a Postal Service that can operate more like a business,” said Donahoe. “I have no doubt the Postal Service will endure as a great American institution. But to do so, we need to operate with a great business model.” Proposed legislation, HR 2309 and S 1789, were introduced earlier this year in response to the USPS’ financial woes.
The USPS continues to look for more ways to cut costs, announcing last week that it is considering closing more than 250 mail processing facilities across the country. Facilities in Durango and Salida are currently up for consideration.