Rock Island Post Office to remain open

| By James Russell |

Rock Island has saved its post office with citizen persistence, just like it saved its water supply with a new wastewater treatment plant. On March 6, over 30 people packed into the small post office in Rock Island to learn their post office is not closing down.

Kat Smithson, postmaster from Peshastin, and the district agent for post office closings, delivered the news along with chocolate chip cookies.

“Your post office is not going away. Your response to the survey made the difference,” Smithson said.

People served by the post office had received a survey on their preferences for reducing service and 165 people responded. Over 92 percent of them preferred reduced hours of operation to other options like closing the post office or moving the office to another location. The results of the survey, as well as regular foot traffic to the service window were reasons management intends to keep the post office open.

Under the plan, post office employees will work 6.5 hours Monday through Friday instead of eight, cutting a total of 7.5 hours per week. The service window will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. instead of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., a half an hour less per day.

The hours won’t change until management posts the decision for 30 days. Smithson projected the change should occur in six weeks.

The Rock Island Post Office. (Jim Russell photo)

The Rock Island Post Office. (Jim Russell photo)

Home delivery will be eliminated on Saturdays as it will be across the nation. Packages will continue to be delivered on Saturday as part of local delivery contracts the U.S. Postal Service already has with firms such as UPS and FedEx.

Doug Shirk, a city council member, had a different question.

“What’s the process to decide whether we need a bigger post office?”

He explained the new wastewater treatment plant enables development. Planning codes are being updated with funds from a community block grant the city was awarded. Development is possible in several areas.

Smithson explained that the status of the post office is reviewed every year. That reassured Shirk. Rock Island has plans to grow.

Free postal service for every resident is guaranteed by the Rural Free Delivery Act of 1896. For Rock Island, that means about a third of the residents have a free post office box and the remainder have rural delivery, according to Tammy Day, officer-in-charge at Rock Island.

Despite the drop in hours, Day is pleased the post office’s fate is decided. She’s been interim manager for three years because the postmaster position was not available until a decision on the closing was made.

“Yes, I plan to apply for the job as postmaster,” she said when I asked about her plans.

Residents are pleased too. After listening to Smithson talk for about 20 minutes, one resident summed up the meeting.

“OK, as I understand, they’re not going to shut this down,” he said. “That’s all I care about.”

When Smithson agreed, he left. Within minutes, only a few remained along with almost all the chocolate chip cookies.