The U.S. Postal Service has suspended operations at the Mellette post office, saying the building has deteriorated to the point where it isn’t safe for customers or employees.
As a result, many Mellette customers are picking up their mail in Northville, which is 4 miles away. The Mellette post office ceased operation the afternoon of May 22.
Mellette mayor Brian Bauer described Mellette residents as a “little disappointed in the post office.”
“They don’t seem to be too willing to give up any information as to what their plans are, and that’s frustrating. We feel like we should have a post office in Mellette, with the school there and the businesses,” said Bauer, explaining that many Mellette residents fear the facility may not reopen. “It looks like their plans are to leave it that way. That’s what’s scaring everybody.”
The terminology the post office uses is that the Mellette post office has been “emergency suspended,” said Pete Nowacki, a Postal Service spokesman who works in Minneapolis.
When such an event happens, the post office’s “continuity of operations plan” is invoked, Nowacki said. Every post office has such a plan.
“In this case, we moved the operations to Northville, which is not quite 41/2 miles away,” he said.
Christi Weideman, a member of the Mellette City Council, said the hours at the Northville post office make it very difficult for her to pick up her mail. The Northville post office is open 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 to 10:15 a.m. Saturdays.
Mellette residents, Nowacki said, also have the option of putting up a mailbox along the route traveled by the mail carrier who serves Mellette. It must be within the carrier’s line of travel, he said.
Nowacki said the post office is working with the landlord of the Mellette post office and talking to the community about a possible alternate location for the facility.
“Right now, there is no timeline,” Nowacki said.
Bauer admits that the condition of the Mellette post office has been poor for the past 15 or 20 years. But members of the community have approached the Postal Service about improving the situation, he said.
“We know the building is bad. We’ve tried to do things in the past. They just didn’t seem like they wanted anything to do with it,” Bauer said.
Late last summer or early fall, several thousand dollars were put into the Mellette post office to make the lobby open 24 hours a day.
At the time, no comments were made by post office officials that the building was in danger of closing.
Nowacki said he doesn’t know what was told to the people of Mellette.
“But with building situations, things do change,” he said.
Mellette residents said they haven’t been sufficiently informed about the post office’s activities.
“The only notification anybody got was the sign that was posted on the building,” Bauer said.
The sign, posted on May 21, reported that operations would cease and the post office would close in two days. In fact, it was closed by 4 p.m. the next afternoon, Bauer said.
Mellette residents said they would like to see a portable unit brought in from Aberdeen to serve Mellette residents while their post office is closed.
Until Mellette postal operations were suspended, the post office was open 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. weekdays and a short time Saturdays, Bauer said.
Nowacki said that, even though the Northville post office doesn’t open until 9 a.m., people from Mellette can pick up their mail there as early as 7:20 a.m.