By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER
The Big Sky Post Office continues to approach a long-term solution.
“The Postal Service has begun the research process to add a new postal operated retail facility in Big Sky,” stated a March 10 press release from the United States Postal Service. “The proposed project includes finding a suitable location, preparing it for use as a Post Office, and transitioning operations from the current contractor operated facility to the new postal operated facility.”
Al Malinowski, President of Gallatin Partners—which operates the Big Sky Post Office and originally sparked action in October from USPS by announcing a termination to their 21 years of contract service—told EBS that he anticipates this announcement refers to a federally-operated post office.
“In the basket of long-term solutions that we’ve been asking for, it’s something we’ve been asking them to consider,” Malinowski said. “A federally operated facility has potential to provide more efficient and additional services to the Big Sky community.”
Some changes could include passport services, mail status scanning and automated point-of-sale system—Malinowski reinforced his past discussion with EBS about the limitations of operating a contract postal unit, as Gallatin Partners has done since 2001 when Big Sky’s population was just over 1,000. It has roughly tripled since.
With regards to the contract’s expiration on May 31 Malinowski said his team remains committed to being the bridge to a positive solution. He suggested that a future extension may be in order.
“This certainly is some of the progress we were hoping for,” he said. “Understanding that to do this right, it’s going to take some time.”
To ensure USPS does it right, the public will have a chance to weigh in.
A 30-day public comment period will begin when postcards are delivered to residents of Big Sky’s postal area—zip code 59716. USPS will consider feedback from the community before making final determinations and asked for patience from the community given “a project of this magnitude.”
Malinowski said he hopes USPS will consider adding the Gallatin Canyon portion of Big Sky into its zip code. The canyon is currently serviced by Gallatin Gateway Post Office, which creates confusion for Big Sky customers multiple times per day. He said that’s one topic worth bringing up during public comment, as a unified zip code would streamline mail service for USPS if it does take over.
“Also, this is a great opportunity to share other services that [community members] see in other communities, that we don’t have,” Malinowski said.
The office of U.S. Senator Steve Daines sent a release about the development, noting that the senator has been in written contact with Postmaster Louis DeJoy about issues in the Bozeman area, as well as advocating for improved Big Sky facilities.
“I have long advocated for the USPS to provide better service to Montanans in every corner of our state so I am grateful the U.S. Postal Service is taking the first step to possibly provide improved service to Big Sky,” Daines stated in the release.