A small group of happy Power residents on Dec. 19 attended the opening of their new post office, munched on cookies and thanked the U.S. Postal Service for restoring a post office to the 59468 ZIP code.
Fairfield/Power Postmaster Doug Anderson and Hal Barber, the USPS regional manager of Post Office Operations from Anaconda, welcomed postal patrons to a reception on the evening of Dec. 19 at the Power American Legion Hall. The new post office is located next door on land the USPS has leased from the Legion.
Barber, who had attended two previous meetings on the post office situation here in April and October 2018, said the crowd was a lot smaller and a lot happier than he had previously seen.
He told the group that he promised the USPS would put a new post office here and the USPS got that done, sooner than he anticipated.
“Tonight is all about you guys, about a celebration of your new post office,” he said. “No more driving to Dutton and back.”
Barber thanked the Power community members for their patience and their perseverance. “You’ve got the coolest new post office in Montana,” he said.
The Power Post Office has been running out of the Dutton Post Office since May 3, 2018, when the USPS encountered safety issues in the building it leased for the Power Post Office. When the USPS was unable to resolve the safety issues with the building’s owner, it terminated the lease and closed the post office.
The USPS then began looking for new sites in Power and entered into a lease with the Power American Legion to provide a location for the new office, which arrived in two pieces on Oct. 8. The post office was built by CISCO Containers LLC of Tulsa, Oklahoma, which manufactures small buildings out of once-used shipping containers.
The two bright blue shipping containers are each 16-feet wide by 40 feet long. Joined together, they were placed on a cement slab and the new building includes a postal lobby where P.O. boxes and parcel lockers are located. This lobby is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The post office also includes a window, which will be staffed from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday, allowing people to purchase stamps and mail packages. The building also includes an area for sorting mail and a bathroom for employees.
Anderson said he is in the process of hiring an employee to staff the Power Post Office but in the meantime, Sharmen Anderson, who works in the Dutton office, will staff the Power office.
“I’m excited to get the new building open,” Anderson told the crowd. He said the USPS brought everyone’s mail from Dutton to Power on Dec. 19 and people would be able to get their mail in Power on Dec. 20.
Everyone’s postal box numbers stayed the same, he said, so no one will need to change their address, but box holders did need to bring their old keys in to exchange them for new keys. The Power Post Office serves 250 patrons, 63 receiving their mail at the post office and the balance living on rural delivery routes.
Anderson said one new feature is that the P.O. boxes are “rotary” design boxes that can only be opened with the customer’s key. The postal employees won’t be able to open boxes to get mail out if a customer forgets his or her key.
“It’s been a long haul, and we had to push the last few days hard to get it open before Christmas,” Anderson said.
He said the Power Post Office is the first in the nation to be constructed from shipping containers. “That’s kind of a special thing for Power as well,” Anderson said, adding that owners of the CISCO Container company made the trip north to watch the installation of the building they made.
Barber said he understands what a post office means to the community and that having a post office helps a community maintain its identity. “I am so happy for you guys that we are finally going to be able to open the doors to your new post office,” he said.
Anderson and Barber ushered 90-year-old Dale Bauman, a long-time Power-area resident, across the way to the new post office, where he was the first Power person to enter the building.
Bauman said he was glad to see the post office back though he receives his mail on a rural route.
Rural Fairfield resident Ross Fitzgerald, who serves as the area’s representative to the Montana Legislature, also keeps a postal box at Power. “It’s great,” he said of the new post office. “Without a ZIP code you don’t have an identity.” Power is small community and having a school, a post office and a public water system are vital to its continued survival, he said.
“We’re grateful to the USPS. They could have written us off the map,” he said.
Leona Somerfeld also attended the reception. “I’m on a rural route, but this is where I want to do my postal business,” she said, adding that the building looks really nice though it took her and others some time to get used to the bright blue color. “It was worth the wait,” she said.
Somerfeld said some box holders went to Dutton for their mail every day. Some went a couple of times a week while others asked friends or family to pick up their mail.
Karol Walker, who manages the Power water system, said she had to memorize the time mail went out at four different post offices so she could take mandatory samples in time to get them mailed to a lab in Helena. Having the Power post office back in business should simplify her job a little, she said.
She said she was pleased that the new post office has more than enough boxes for existing patrons, giving the community a little leeway to grow its population in the future.
Marge and Jerome Simonson, who are box holders, were also on hand for the reception. Marge said the 18 months of driving daily to Dutton didn’t faze her — because her husband made that trip. Nevertheless, she said, “It will be nice to have it back.”
In addition to community members and USPS employees, Robin Baker of Great Falls, a field representative for U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, attended the open house.