Residents of a rural community in northern Alaska learned what life was like without the post office last month. The of community of Wainwright, Alaska encountered very difficult times after the temporary closure of their local U.S. Post Office. Weeks without the post office was worse than an inconvenience, according to KTUU News in Alaska.
“I have teachers that are running out of medications, out of food, need to pay bills,” Robert Grimes, principal of a Wainwright school told KTUU News in an email. “It is the same for the people in the village. There are no roads out here. We do get small planes out here twice a day but it you have to ship stuff in cargo. It’s very expensive; the mail is subsidized and that’s how everything comes through.”
The problem arose, according to Grimes, because the U.S. Postal Service was not on the list of expected closures. After the loss of the last Wainwright Postmaster, weeks went on without a replacement.
“Unfortunately, we are experiencing challenges with finding a Postmaster or Postmaster Relief who is available and willing to fly in to Wainwright and Levelock to operate the local Post Offices,” said USPS spokesperson Dawn Peppinger at that time. The hunt was on for a replacement, or even a temporary replacement to serve the small rural community of roughly 575 people.
After U.S. Senator Mark Begich got involved, demanding that the U.S. Postal Service find a temporary Postmaster, relief finally came.
“The fact that this post office was closed with little notice and no explanation is totally unacceptable and I demanded immediate action from the USPS district office and the USPS liaison in Washington to fix the situation. The people of Wainwright deserve better, and I will not stop pushing USPS on this issue until the Wainwright post office is back to normal operations,” Begich said, according to Postal Reporter. “Closing a post office in the Lower 48 may be a minor inconvenience, but here in Alaska, a closed post office means people can’t get their medicine or their paychecks. It is outrageous that USPS did not have a plan in place to make sure Wainwright’s post office remained open.”
The temporary worker had to be transferred from Barrow, Alaska. After getting a relief worker to the post office, mail still was not readily available. With weeks of backed up mail, the relief worker had the daunting task of sorting through the backlog and organizing the packages.
No reports can be found about the status of a permanent Postmaster for the small post office. The latest info asks any interested party to call (907) 261-5450. As of the most recent reports from the small Alaskan community, residents are still suffering the effects of life without a post office for a couple of weeks, but residents are relieved that a temporary solution has been found.