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Community Week: Future of Big Sky Post Office in jeopardy

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Cherrie Downer, Patea White and Al Malinowski greet customers at the post office desk. PHOTO BY GABRIELLE GASSER

Madison County pledges to provide Big Sky polling location

By Jason Bacaj MANAGING EDITOR

The Big Sky Post Office, which has been operated locally for 21 years on a contract basis, will close on Feb. 28, 2023, without “serious involvement” from the U.S. Postal Service, officials said on Oct. 5 at the biannual joint meeting between the Big Sky Resort Area District and the Gallatin and Madison county commissions.

Gallatin Partners, Inc. has contracted with the USPS to operate the Big Sky Post Office since 2001, said Al Malinowski, president of Gallatin Partners. Among the reasons why the organization is terminating its contract with USPS, he said, is that the current post office location is too small and Big Sky should provide postal service to the community in Gallatin Canyon, much of which is currently served by the Gallatin Gateway post office.

“We’re unwilling to continue to operate in the existing facility in the way we have,” Malinowski said. “Now a solution is necessary. There has to be a new location.”

The current post office has 1,661 post office boxes and Census data from 2020 shows that the Big Sky population is more than 3,500 people. Malinowski said his company took over the contract to operate the post office from the Big Sky Owners Association in 2001 with the intent of serving as a bridge to handing the facility over to the USPS.

“I’m still hoping it can happen,” he said.

In March, the USPS bumped the amount of money provided to the Big Sky Post Office to $547,000, in what was viewed at the time as the first step toward a long-term solution for the over-capacity post office.

Past efforts to engage the USPS in talks about a long-term solution for operating the local post office have been unsuccessful. Malinowski said that a letter signed by state lawmakers and the Montana Congressional delegation, among others, had been sent to the USPS in an effort to get the federal agency to act, but that the agency gave “no real response.”

In response to a question from the meeting’s audience about what would happen on March 1, 2023, if nothing were done, Malinowski said he did not know.

“Any approach we do on our own would be just another Band-Aid,” he said.

Later in the Wednesday morning meeting, Madison County Commissioner John Heckler announced that progress is being made on establishing a polling location in the Madison County portion of Big Sky.

Big Sky Fire Department Chief Greg Megaard spoke up during the meeting and offered to host the polling station at BSFD Station 2, which sits off Lone Mountain Trail near Big Sky Mountain Resort, in Madison County.

“There will be a polling station for voters in Madison County in Big Sky by the next federal election,” Commissioner Heckler said. “It just takes time.”

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