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Government & Politics

Plans To Remove Postal Service Collection Boxes In Montana On Pause After Pushback

Plans to remove some 60 United States Postal Service collection boxes in Montana are on pause following pushback from the state’s delegation in Washington, D.C. and others’ complaints.

A spokesperson for the USPS tells YPR News a total of 13 boxes were removed in Montana after two years of data analysis showed they were of “low use.” The spokesperson confirmed the pause in further removals is due to public concerns.

U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines cheered the pause but say questions remain about why boxes were removed.

Earlier Friday the Montana Letter Carriers Union confirmed orders to remove 18 mail collection boxes in Missoula, nine in Bozeman, three in Lewistown and 30 in Billings.

The removal orders started in July, about the same time new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy started making sweeping changes to postal service operations that have resulted in delivery delays.

Deb Senn is a member of the Montana Letter Carriers Union and says the number of blue mail box removals is not normal, though the USPS regularly removes boxes that are rarely used.

YPR News spoke to Senn before the pause in removals was announced.

"I’m hoping it’s not gonna affect customer service too much but it really could. Because a lot of people depend on those boxes instead of running all the way to the post office to drop them off. I really think it could affect the customer service aspect of it," Senn said.

USPS was considering removing a box across the street from the University of Montana in Missoula, as well as boxes on main thoroughfares such as Orange St., VanBuren St., Higgins Ave. and others. Exact locations for the boxes being removed in Bozeman and Lewistown were not immediately available.

Senn said plans to replace the Billings' Pioneer Post Office box with two large boxes could be an asset. However, she was concerned about the proposed removal of boxes on the street at the downtown station.

As of publication YPR News did not have a list of the 13 boxes that had been removed before the pause was announced.

A USPS spokesperson said boxes are historically removed based on the amount of mail received and that removing boxes that receive little mail is “simply good business sense.”

Tester, Daines and Congressman Greg Gianforte have written to Postmaster General DeJoy in the past two weeks to ask that he reverse new policies that delay mail service.

Montana’s delegation says delayed service impacts those who receive prescriptions or pay bills through the USPS and further isolates those who live in rural areas.

Tester adds the removals could have a negative impact on mail-in voting, as many look to cast absentee ballots in November’s general election due to the coronavirus pandemic.