Almena will likely get a new post office at some undetermined time in the future – but the only remaining question is: Where?

Box holders in the Almena area have been traveling to Barron since an arson fire heavily damaged the local Post Office in early December 2018.

According to Kristy Anderson, an official with a U.S. Postal Service regional office in Minneapolis, area residents have until Saturday, July 6, 2019, to mail comments about where they think the new office should be located. Comments should be addressed to Greg Shelton, in Denver, Colo. See below for further information.

The Postal Service conducted a hearing in Almena on Thursday, June 6, to inform the public about its plans for a new facility. About a dozen people attended.

“We talked about a site next to the Village Hall as being a possible location,” Anderson said in a June 13 message to the News-Shield.

There are other possibilities, she added.

“A gentleman had us drive with him to look at 10 other possible sites -- if the property owners were willing to do something,” Anderson said. “Only one of those property owners has an interest so far.”

Anderson is a strategic communications specialist for a USPS office in the Twin Cities. It serves portions of the Wisconsin and Illinois, as well as the entire states of Minnesota and Iowa.

The decision about a new Almena Post Office will be made in Denver, Colo., where U.S. Postal Service real estate specialist Greg Shelton will accept and review the comments.

Messages should be addressed as follows: U.S. Postal Service Attention: Greg Shelton-Almena, 200 E. Kentucky Ave., Denver, CO 80209-4058

People have until July 6 to send in comments, Anderson said.

After the USPS determines the best course of action, it plans to relocate to at least 770 square feet of space in an existing Almena building, or on at least 10,000 square feet of leased land in the village, according to its previous announcements.

Revenue and public service

According to a handout distributed at the June 6 meeting, USPS needs a new location because, after the fire, “the landlord was not willing to rebuild” the damaged Post Office.

Reduced income is another motivating factor, USPS added.

“As a self-supporting government establishment that receives no tax dollars for its operating expenses, the Postal Service must rely on the sale of postage, products and services to generate revenue,” the agency said in the handout.

The “Postal Service must seek ways to cut costs, increase revenue and use its physical facilities as efficiently as possible,” the statement added.

After the July 6 deadline, “the Postal Service will consider the comments and appeals received that identify reasons why the Postal Service’s tentative decision and proposal is, or is not, the (best) solution for the identified need.

“If the Postal Service decides to use a site outside of the area discussed or an area that it did not identify at the public meeting, then our regulation generally requires (us) to return to the public meeting stage of the process to make a new presentation regarding the new site or area,” the statement added.

Arson fire

More than six months have passed since a Dec. 8, 2018 arson fire that destroyed much of the contents of the Almena Post Office.

Two juvenile boys were apprehended by the Turtle Lake Police Department after the fire. They were turned over to juvenile authorities elsewhere in Wisconsin.

At the time the charges were filed, Turtle Lake Police Chief Al Gabe said federal authorities decided to allow the case to proceed in Barron County, even though the destruction of U.S. mail is a federal offense.

“If (the suspects) were adults, there would be a federal prosecution,” Gabe said at the time.

The case has proceeded since that time in juvenile court. Records of juvenile proceedings are, typically, not available to the public.