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Dave Olson, Published July 28 2011

Rural Red River Valley communities worry post offices will be canceled

COMSTOCK, Minn. - Peggy Butenhoff was the postmaster here for 25 years.

Now retired, Butenhoff said the best part of her job was the people.

“Having grown up here, it’s like seeing family every day. People that moved in became like family as well,” said Butenhoff, who still lives in this hamlet of just under 100 people in southern Clay County.

The news earlier this week that the post office is on a list of sites the Postal Service is looking at closing worries Butenhoff.

“It is a vital operation,” she said. “We’ve lost a whole lot of other things already.”

Besides the post office, the few remaining services in town include an insurance agency and the C-W Valley Co-op elevator.

Roger Christianson, who lives in Fargo-Moorhead and works at the Comstock elevator, keeps a mailbox at the Comstock post office for the convenience.

If the office closes, he said he’d probably shift his business to the post office in Wolverton, just down the road.

But there’s a problem with that.

That post office might also close.

Christianson said in that case he might have to get his mail out of Moorhead or Barnesville.

Pete Nowacki, a spokesman for the Postal Service in Minneapolis, said post offices on what is called the expanded access study list could face changes, but nothing will change until there are meetings in communities and customers are given a chance to be heard.

He said offices are on the list because they get a small amount of traffic.

If a post office is closed, Nowacki said, options for mail service include delivery similar to a rural delivery route, or a cluster mailbox set-up in a central location in a community.

Another option might be a partnership, where the Postal Service teams up with a business in town to offer things like stamps, he said.

The Wolverton Post Office already has a community partner, in a way.

The building the post office is in is leased from Northern Plains Contracting next door.

Owner Mary Gilbertson said the business would miss having a post office close by.

“It’s been very handy for us to walk next door,” she said, adding that she feels for the residents of Wolverton.

“This is basically a retirement community,” she said. “So, when they go to ship a birthday gift to their grandson, they’ll miss that convenience.”

When a town loses its post office, it loses more than convenience, Butenhoff said.

“It’s a hub of information. You go to the post office, you find out what’s going on in the community.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555