Fire changes how residents get mail

The Ismay post office building is in ruins after a late night fire burned the structure to the ground.

Although the building was destroyed in the early hours of Jan. 3, there will still be postal service for the small rural community six miles north of Highway 12.

The residents will just have to travel 20 miles one-way to Plevna for now, according to Ismay’s postmistress, Corrine Sander, who is working out of the Plevna office.

“All of the sorting for Ismay is done in Plevna,” Sander explained. “The status of the situation is that right now, we are waiting for the insurance folks to come and the inspectors to come.

“We are doing the best we can right now. We can do nothing with the site at all until all the investigations are all complete.”

That means it will take some time before any decision is made about bringing the mail service back into Ismay, she said. “It is going to be a lengthy process even to get to even the decision-making point for the Ismay situation. We just don’t know anything yet. It is just too soon in the process to know what they will decide,” the postmistress explained.

According to Sander, the postal service has contingency plans. “The contingency plan now is to use Plevna’s as much as possible to keep things flowing as best we can and meet the customers’ needs.”

She said whatever the Postal Service plan is for Ismay, she will be doing the best she can with it for the residents of the community.

“It is a 20-mile trip from Ismay to Plevna, but they (USPS) may allow the mail to be brought out to a secondary site in Ismay at some point just to help the customers there. That is a possibility too,” she added. “Depending on the weather, it is about 20 to 25 minutes in each direction. It is a bit of a trip, there is no doubt about that.

“In the interim, if a person wants to mail a package, that is just what they will have to do (travel to Plevna). The drop box (in Ismay) is no longer there. That has been taken down and secured,” she said.

That means waiting to take a package to Plevna or bring it with them on a trip to Baker, Miles City or other larger communities when they go for groceries, Sander explained.

“It is just one of those things. They’ll have to adapt to this change,” she added. The postmistress said she is working through the Postal Service checklist. “We are making progress every day and it is a priority to move this thing as quickly as we can.”

As to the long range impact on the community, the postmistress said that it is too early in the process to speculate. “It is going to be interesting to see what they (the Postal Service) come up with and how this shakes out.

“Out here, we have problems with hail, wind and not just fire. The elements can be brutal,” she said. “Some of these offices are even more remote than Ismay. It could be worse. It hasn’t been easy.”

There is some comfort in having to go through a checklist because each item is checked off, the end of the checklist becomes noticeably closer. “As you get one more item done, then there is the next one. In my opinion, it kind of helps the process to be that regimented. It is helpful,” she said.

Contingency plans

The Postal Service has contingency plans to handle disasters affecting their service, Sander explained. “Whether it be flood, fire, tornado, any kind of a natural disaster situation, there is always a contingency plan for each office to have a fallback mail-handling situation. That is very common.

“One thing that is nice about the postal service is that you can share employees if you need to. You can borrow from another office (as needed). The work is all the same. The requirements are the same and the deadlines are the same,” she explained.

“The post office is very good at adapting,” said Sander, who has been the postmistress for Ismay for about eight years.

Waiting for investigations

The postmaster in the Baker post office, Kevin Kleppelid, said the Plevna Post Office has always handled the mail needs of Ismay. “The Ismay routes are established out of Plevna. They have been there now for four years.

“We are holding their mail in Plevna until we get further guidance. As far as the building, that is being handled by headquarters,” he added.

Before there can be anything done to return mail service to Ismay, the investigations by the insurance company and the postal service have to be completed, he explained.

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