BY MARK JAMISON
The Postal Service didn’t think the folks in Freistatt, Missouri, should have a post office, so they closed it.
The Postal Service didn’t think the folks in Freistatt, Missouri, should get rural carrier delivery like their neighbors, so they tricked the town into accepting cluster boxes.
Now the Postal Service doesn’t think the folks in Freistatt, Missouri, ought to have the opportunity to tell their story to the Postal Regulatory Commission, so they filed a motion asking the PRC to dismiss the appeal because it was submitted a week late.
As reported on STPO back in March 2013, the Postal Service closed the Freistatt office on two-days’ notice by emergency suspension — and on Good Friday no less. But that was not the end of the story. It was only the beginning.
The first push to close Freistatt: The 2011 RAOI
Freistatt is an incorporated town of 160 people in the southwest corner of Missouri. The town is situated along Highway H, a main road that serves trucks traveling between Missouri and Arkansas, and it has a fairly thriving business sector. There is a major insurance agency in the town, an active non-profit that mails Braille bibles for the blind, a large John Deere outlet, and a housing complex for seniors and the disabled. Although the town’s population decreased between the 2000 and 2010 census, the general area of Lawrence County grew by about 34% during that time.
In 2011 the Freistatt post office was one of 3,700 offices marked for closing under the Retail Access Optimization Initiative (RAOI), and a discontinuance study was initiated in August of that year. Like most discontinuance studies, this was a pro forma exercise that was less a study to determine if the office should close than a means to legitimize the Postal Service’s decision to close it. The plan back then was to replace the post office with rural delivery.
The discontinuance study was flawed by the usual anomalies and misinformation that has become an all-too-common feature of this process. For example, even though the office had both a postmaster and a postmaster relief (PMR), in the cost-savings analysis, all of the offices hours were rated at the higher labor rate of the postmaster, thus giving the impression of greater savings than actually would have been accrued.
The initial letters sent to Freistatt’s customers had more than a few things wrong as well. For example, the mileage to the other post offices was incorrect, and an office that was more than seventy miles away was included as an “alternate” facility. That initial letter, which is not in the administrative record provided by the Postal Service, also apparently had some assertions about the town and the post office that were wrong, including the notion that the town was unincorporated and that the postmaster did not help the elderly.