Hartsburg is home to one of the 13,000 rural post offices across the country that are reducing business hours in response to a major drop in revenue for the United States Postal Service.
Thirty Hartsburg residents met Wednesday to review the decision to keep the town’s post office open for only four hours on weekdays.
To the Hartsburg residents who gathered to discuss the future of the town’s postal service, the post office provides more than their mail—it gives the town an identity.
Cindy Bolles is a post office operations manager for the United States Postal Service in Columbia. She says, unlike people in other rural towns, scheduling for four-hour days isn’t the main concern of Hartsburg residents: "To them, it’s a passion about they want to keep their personal identity of Hartsburg," she says.
Several residents said they were afraid they’d have to change their addresses to Ashland, where the postmaster is making space for the Hartsburg mail her staff will now sort.
Ganelle Cunnigham is a lifelong resident of Hartsburg and a former US Postal Service employee. She says she’s not happy with reduced post office hours, but she feels it’s preferable to closing the post office entirely: "We all get to keep our address, and we still keep the town’s name," she said. "-Once you lose the post office, you lose your identity. So I can live with the four hours."
In addition to shortening business hours, the Hartsburg post office also eliminated the full-time postmaster position. Cuts like these across the country will be expected to save the US Postal Service half a billion dollars per year.
Cunningham says Hartsburg residents should use their post office more often to generate enough revenue to keep the office open: "They don’t think anything about going to a machine to buy stamps or buying them elsewhere and they all need to buy from their home post office."
The US Postal Service will re-evaluate post office revenues in the year 2014, so the Hartsburg post office could be subject to more changes at that time.