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North Dakota Senator concerned post office closures could cause ripple effect in rural areas

With the U.S. Postal Service weighing the closure of up to 2,000 post offices nationwide, Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad said he's worried for the future of North Dakota's rural communities.

In a meeting Monday with Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe, Conrad urged Donahoe to gather input from affected communities and to study the impact a closing would have before any final decisions are made.

"We must find a way to assure the solvency of the United States Postal Service, while still delivering mail efficiently to our rural communities," Conrad said in a statement.

"In many cases, the post office is the bedrock of a community. Shutting it down could have a ripple effect, impacting the local economy and closing off the community to the outside world," he added.

The Postal Service said recently it would close or consolidate about 2,000 facilities in an effort to save as much as $500 million in the next two years. That's on top of the nearly 500 other offices slated for closure, beginning at the end of last year.

These latest closures would likely be to facilities that don't generate enough revenue to cover costs, the service said, which would be primarily small, rarely visited retail locations and/or likely in rural areas.

North Dakota has more than 320 post offices statewide. Since 2005, 15 have been closed permanently for various reasons.

Within the past two months, services at the post offices in Palermo and Cathay - both in rural areas of the state - were suspended after officials couldn't fill vacancies left by departing postmasters.

Suspended services can, but don't always, lead to the permanent closure of a facility.

The Postal Service has not yet disclosed which specific locations might be on the chopping block in this latest round of cuts.

The service has run multibillion-dollar losses since 2007 and has reduced its work force by more than 105,000 since 2008.