April 20, 2012

Rahall, Manchin battle for rural post offices | The Beckley Register-Herald

Nabisco’s Uneeda Biscuits inspired the naming of the Boone County hamlet of Uneeda, but the tasty cream-cheese treat is gone, and soon, the post office bearing its trademark name could follow suit.

On Capitol Hill, the financially strapped U.S. Postal Service is cutting corners to reverse a heavy deficit, and one cost-cutting device it is considering would put 150 small postal facilities in rural West Virginia out of business.

Rep. Nick Rahall and Sen. Joe Manchin, both D-W.Va., resumed their fight Thursday to keep them open, at least, under a Manchin amendment, for a minimum of two years.

Folks served in the small communities are up in arms over the threatened closures.

One of them, Deanna Halstead, wrote Manchin that the Uneeda post office arose in 1902, after a man picked the town’s name from a can of Nabisco’s biscuits.

“It would be a shame to lose that history, and it would be hard for our elderly and disabled citizens to travel farther for these services,” she told the senator.

“Fifteen miles does not sound like much to people in Washington, but when you rely on public transportation or a neighbor to take you, it becomes a big burden.”

Manchin acknowledged that running rural postal facilities isn’t always profitable and private firms won’t provide such services.

“As Americans, we need our rural communities to stay in touch with the rest of this great nation, and I am fighting along with the members of our delegation to put a stop to these proposed closures,” he said.

Rahall called on the congressional leadership to move soon on his bill, HR4335, known as the Postal Service Accountability Act. It would empower the Postal Regulatory Commission to block any closures that would adversely impact delivery in a community.

If unsupported by proof of cost savings, the commission could also deny a closure.

“At issue is the basic right of citizens of a community to be heard,” the 3rd District congressman said.

“We must ensure that the Postal Service’s actions are grounded in the best interests of the people it was created to serve.”

Rahall pointed out the commission back in December couldn’t confirm any cost savings that would be realized if the post offices were shut down.

“I am convinced that legitimate safety and convenience concerns of residents and businesses are not being sufficiently addressed — that many post offices’ fates are predetermined, and that the public comment process, in too many instances, has become a perfunctory step in the closure process, as the Postal Service bulldozes ahead, closing valued postal facilities for very little, if any, economic savings,” he said.

“We must provide a meaningful, long-term improvement to the current and flawed process of postal planning.”

In a floor speech, Manchin reminded fellow senators he grew up in the town of Farmington with a population of a few hundred.

“I speak from experience when I saw that post offices in these rural communities serve as a critical lifeline,” he said.

“Even now, as an elected representative, I receive dozens, sometimes hundreds, of letters a day from my constituents, many of whom don’t have access to the Internet and can only reach me by writing a letter. This is what so unique about our post offices. They are a vital link for West Virginians and many others throughout this country. And for them, it is so important that their mail service remain uncompromised.”

Source: Mannix Porterfield