Richard “Dick” Neyen Sr., referred to by many as the unofficial mayor of Chromo, retired last week after 16 years as the Chromo postmaster.
In a phone interview with SUN staff, his son, Richard Neyen Jr., explained, “The big story is the whole town of Chromo threw my dad a retirement party. They had it at the fire station, and the funny thing was, he knew everybody there, but everybody there didn’t know each other; he brought the town together. They finally met each other after having lived near each other for so long.”
David Rupert from the U.S. Postal Service’s communications office in Denver confirmed there will be some changes at the Chromo post office, other than Neyen’s retirement.
For one thing, it will only be open four hours per day instead of eight.
“They didn’t have the workload to justify the eight hours,” Rupert said. “We’ve done that at thirteen thousand post offices across the country, and this is one of our final few hundred as we’re getting down to the end.”
While the post office operating hours will be less, individual post office boxes will now be accessible 24 hours per day. But this doesn’t affect other services that a post office might offer, because the change of address online is much more efficient. Up until now, patrons could only collect mail from their boxes when the post office building was open.
“Within a couple of weeks we are going to have a solution,” Rupert promised, “so those boxes will be available and you can get your mail twenty four hours a day, but if you have business to conduct with us, it will be during those four hours.”
If a person is unable to make it to the Chromo post office within that four-hour time frame, he or she will need to travel to Pagosa Springs or Durango.
“It just comes down to diminished retail traffic,” Rupert continued. “We’ve had a twenty-five percent reduction in our overall mail volume in the last six years, so we are just looking at what we can do. The good news is that Chromo is open. Maybe in another business or industry that wouldn’t be the case, but we have a real dedication to the towns that we serve.”
Rupert reiterated there are no plans to completely close the Chromo post office, and the effective date for switching from four to eight hours didn’t occur until Monday of this week.
Residents of Chromo have known for two years this reduction in operating hours was coming.
In May of 2012, The SUN reported that USPS Postmaster General Patrick Donehoe had granted a reprieve to 13,000 post offices across the country that had previously faced complete closures.
“We’ve listened to our customers in rural America and we’ve heard them loud and clear — they want to keep their Post Office open,” Donahoe announced at the time.
In explaining a net loss of $3.2 billion for the second quarter of 2012, the USPS quarterly statement read, “The losses are due primarily to legislative mandates such as the unique mandated pre-funding of retiree health benefits, and prohibiting management from making the needed operational and human resource changes required to address these issues under current laws and contracts.”
In other words, the USPS was prevented by law from laying off personnel; it had to wait until people retired and cut staff via attrition, which, as it turned out, is what happened in Chromo last week.
“The way this works,” Rupert concluded last week’s interview, “is in the future, if Chromo grows, it’s like an accordion; we have the ability to adjust our hours, one way or the other, and we have already done that in a number of offices across Colorado and the country. We reduced last year, but then this year, well, we increased the hours, because new subdivisions came in or new businesses came in. We are just trying to be flexible and I think people appreciate that. We are all just trying to live within our budgets.”