For the last four decades, Kim Pinter and her husband have lived in the remote Bad Rock Canyon seven miles west of Glacier National Park and about two-and-a-half miles into the woods off U.S. Highway 2.
Besides a few bars, a gas station and a post office, there are few establishments in Coram and residents must travel to Columbia Falls for most services.
But in July, Coram will lose its post office and since there’s no mail delivery in the canyon, residents will have to drive 10 miles to Columbia Falls or seven miles to West Glacier to get their mail.
“The older folks will have a hard time,” Pinter said. “My husband and I are active, but there is a community in the canyon who could have a problem if they can’t make it to the post office.”
Like many post offices in rural towns, the Coram post office is part of a Contract Postal Unit (CPU) system, which are retail units inside a private business and operated by non-postal employees. CPU suppliers operate under either a firm-fixed price or a performance-based contract with USPS to provide retail products and postal services, according to the USPS.
For the last decade, a private citizen has held a contract with USPS to keep Coram’s post office operating, but it expired a year ago.
“He kept it open mainly for the community,” Coram Postmistress Dayna Miller said. “He kept it open as long as he could.”
Miller has worked at the post office for about a year, earning around $12 per hour, and she says nobody else is willing to pick up the contract.
“The biggest problem is the government is not willing to pay a wage that keeps up with the cost of living,” Miller said. “No one is crazy enough to pick up the contract.”
Miller says she and the post office’s operator have tried contacting the USPS to figure out how to keep the Coram office open, but they have not received a response and unless someone steps up to renew the contract, the facility will close on July 1.
While there are rumors of cluster box installations in Coram, Miller says she hasn’t heard any definitive answers and she’s not sure where the mailboxes would go.
Zachary Laux, a USPS communications specialist based out of Colorado, told the Beacon that the organization is currently working to set up cluster boxes in Coram, but officials are still in the process of finding a location for the units.
“People rely on the post office because there’s no rural delivery,” Miller said. “They don’t have the option of putting a mailbox in front of their house. It’s either a post office or cluster boxes.”
Miller is especially concerned for senior citizens in the area who might not be able to drive to Columbia Falls or West Glacier, especially in the middle of winter.
“These post offices are what exist in tiny little communities that have no rural delivery,” Miller said. “The majority of the people in this area are elderly and they depend on this place to get their mail and packages and when that is taken away, they will be expected to drive to Columbia Falls mid-winter to pick up packages.”
For Pinter, she says losing the post office is not only inconvenient, but Coram will also lose a local hub for the canyon community.
“The post office is our community center,” Pinter said. “Everyone knows each other, and people post on the bulletin boards. I almost always run into someone I know or someone I haven’t seen in a while at the post office.”
This story was updated to include information from a USPS communications specialist.
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