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Iowa City residents, officials respond to postal service changes

BY NICK HASSETT | FEBRUARY 12, 2013 5:00 AM

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After a decision by the U.S. Postal Service to discontinue the Saturday delivery of most letters, mailers, and catalogues, some in Iowa City are concerned about the trend of mail service in general.

The Postal Service announced the change on Feb. 6 as a way to cut costs from the independent agency of the government. The service is plagued by debt, and on Sept. 28, 2012, the service hit its $15 billion debt limit set by Congress. It cannot borrow more without Congressional approval.

The measure would discontinue Saturday delivery service except for packages, mail-order medicines, Priority Mail, and Express Mail. The changes will take effect on Aug. 10, 2013.

Bill Nusser, the owner of Hands Jewelers, 109 E. Washington St., said the change would negatively affect his business.

“We do receive Saturday deliveries; a lot of things in the jewelry business are last-minute,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, but I understand the market factors behind the decision. … Use has declined.”

Nusser thinks the Postal Service is the safest and most reliable shipper for his merchandise, and using alternative methods of shipping can make his insurance costs rise.

“A lot of people are moving to email, but as somebody who ships objects, [safety] is a big deal to me,” he said. “I don’t want to see the service dumbed down.”

Iowa City City Councilor Susan Mims believes a lot of businesses were making the transition online, but she wanted to see more information on the issue.

“I don’t know for sure,” she said, in response to how the change might affect local businesses. “So many people do a lot of things electronically.”

However, City Councilor Connie Champion thought the change wouldn’t be a major issue.

“I don’t think it’s a big deal; I think we can get along without Saturday mail,” she said.  “[The Postal Service] has to make ends meet.”

Raymond Riezman, a University of Iowa professor of economics, thinks the changes could affect small businesses.

“It might affect certain businesses, like small-town newspapers that deliver once a week,” he said.

As for how much money eliminating most Saturday mail service would save, Riezman thought it wasn’t enough.

“It’s only going to cover a small part of their downfall,” he said. “But it’s about all they can do.  It’s either that or raise rates.”

A spokesperson for the Postal Service was not available Monday evening.

One postal worker didn’t think the measure would have much of an effect on the local facilities.

Brianne Wulf, a customer-service representative for the post station on 1720 Waterfront Drive, didn’t think the changes would reduce the number of employees.

The cutting of Saturday delivery won’t be the first time Iowa City has felt the effect of the Postal Service’s budget woes.

On Sept. 9, 2011, the postal substation at 121 E. Washington St. closed its doors for good, and its employees were moved to the Clinton Street location.

However, Wulf doesn’t think any more offices are in danger of being closed.

“[The Postal Service] probably wouldn’t close any others,” she said. “There’s too much business.”
But after the closing of the Washington Street office and now the elimination of most Saturday deliveries, Nusser thinks the Postal Service’s decisions are questionable.

“I wish they would use a better decision-making process,” he said. “[The debt] is not an unforeseeable problem, but they act like it just hit them yesterday. They should be smarter in how they operate.”

Nusser thinks the changes represent an overall trend in mail delivery, something he thinks will only continue.

“There are lots of conventions that you don’t want to send in an email,” he said. “Sympathy notes, love notes. I think as a country we’re eroding ourselves in how civilized we are. First it’s closing on Saturday, then it’ll be Wednesday. It’s the beginning of an end.”


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