Our view: Postal Service’s small business exclusion plan is right on track

A strange thing happened on the way to your mailbox.

In August, the North Forty News made its usual month-end visit to the Wellington Post Office to process the 15,000 newspapers direct-mailed to our readers, a process that has been efficient, cost-effective and relatively painless for over 18 years.

But there was hitch this time. Wellington has an interim postmaster hell-bent on enforcing obscure and nonsensical provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that meant physically accounting for every nanogram of the 2,500 pounds of newsprint in our delivery truck.

Twelve times a year for 18 years, the process of getting the newspaper in the mail to our local readers had never taken longer than about 45 minutes. This time, however, the Wellington Post office and the North Forty News remained locked in a four-hour dance of Domestic Mail Manual rule interpretation, statistical sampling scenarios and small-business-versus-bureaucracy realities.

Faced with the prospect of having to spend several hours every month needlessly unloading and reloading our delivery vehicles at the Wellington Post Office, we made the decision in early September to mail subsequent editions from the printing plant in Cheyenne. The workers there will process the newspapers for mailing then truck them down I-25 past Wellington to the Denver Post Office, where the papers will begin their return journey to you.

Mailing through Denver via Cheyenne means that the Postal Service will do the driving, but on their own schedule and at additional expense (to us). Forget about adding a 100-mile trip down the interstate. Mailing the North Forty News through Wellington meant that our local staff could do most of the work and deliver the papers directly to the mountain post offices in a timely and efficient manner.

We’ve done our best to work around the burdensome big-city, big-bureaucracy red tape imposed us — a Wellington small business — but this means you, our readers, may be receiving your postal carrier-delivered North Forty News later than usual. It also means we no longer have work for several subcontractors — a sad thing during tough economic times when more people need to be working, not fewer —and we’re reducing the number of newspapers sent via direct mail to readers in east Fort Collins.

Our advertisers won’t be hurt by this bureaucractic brouhaha because we’re filling more newsracks in local restaurants and businesses interested in supporting a fellow local business rather than scaring it away. And, given the likelihood that this nonsense will continue indefinitely, we’ll also step up our efforts to find a cheaper and less burdensome delivery method for our Wellington readers — perhaps even delivering those newspapers with our own carriers.

However, we do not mean for any of this to reflect negatively on the hard-working, front-line Postal Service personnel and carriers who know what small-community service is about. They’re some of the smartest, friendliest, most sensible and level-headed people we’ve ever worked with. If the Postal Service survives, it’ll be because of their hard work — and not the result of Kings of Paperwork who oversee a Department of Fine Print Compliance that penalizes small business.

The saddest part is that, in the end, Wellington winds up shipping jobs to Wyoming. And the Postal Service’s vicious cycle of decline gets its footing on Wellington’s main street. Less money spent by local businesses at the local post office means reduced revenues, which in turn leads to reductions in local workforce, reduced hours of operation and scaled-back services.

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