FAIRBANKS — In July, the United States Postal Service targeted 36 offices in Alaska for possible closure. On Monday, 25 of those offices were removed from the list. The offices all have one thing in common: none of them are on the Alaska road system.
While an official list of the spared post offices has not been released, offices considered off-road include those in Lake Minchumina, Beaver and Bettles. The 11 post offices still under consideration for closure include the offices at Fort Wainwright, Eielson Air Force Base, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Minto and Clear. According to Diane Horbuchuk, district manager for the Alaska USPS, the review of the remaining post offices should be concluded by the end of the week.
In a press release from Sen. Mark Begich’s office that came out Monday afternoon, the senator said, “I am pleased we have been able to successfully relay concerns to the postal service and help them realize the importance of these offices to remote parts of the state.”
Both Begich and Sen. Lisa Murkowski had released statements reflecting their concern for the health of the rural communities when the possible closure list was released. Murkowski noted many of the communities are dependent on their post office for more than just mail. Such needs run the range from medicine to absentee ballots, as well as groceries and supplies.
Julie Collins, a resident of Lake Minchumina, said the closure of the post office there could create a “domino effect” in her community. In a column she wrote for the Sunday edition of the News-Miner, Collins wrote, “We use this critical village center not just for books, videos, Internet access and government forms but for public meetings, fundraising, a visitor center, rescue equipment storage and emergency shelter.”
Dan Hytry, whose wife Shawna serves as Postmaster for the Lake Minchumina office, said in an email the news was a “burden lifted from our shoulders.” Hytry said the state office hasn’t formally notified them about removal from the list.
“We’ve been stressing about our future for almost a month now; it has been hellish.”