New Strategy to Preserve the Nation’s Smallest Post Offices
May 09, 2012
The plan would keep the existing small Post Offices in place, but with modified retail window hours to match customer use. Access to the retail lobby and to PO Boxes would remain unchanged, and the town’s ZIP Code and community identity would be retained.
“Meeting the needs of postal customers is, and will always be, a top priority. We continue to balance that by better aligning service options with customer demand and reducing the cost to serve,” said Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe. “With that said, we’ve listened to our customers in rural America and we’ve heard them loud and clear – they want to keep their Post Office open. We believe today’s announcement will serve our customers’ needs and allow us to achieve real savings to help the Postal Service return to long-term financial stability.”
The new strategy would be implemented over a two-year, multi-phased approach and would not be completed until September 2014. Once implementation is completed, the Postal Service estimates savings of a half billion dollars annually.
Megan Brennan, Postal Service Chief Operating Officer said, “The Postal Service is committed to serving America’s communities and providing a responsible and fair approach for our employees and customers.“ Brennan said, "The Post Offices in rural America will remain open unless a community has a strong preference for one of the other options. We will not close any of these rural Post Offices without having provided a viable solution.”
The Postal Service will provide an opportunity for the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) to review this plan prior to making any changes. The Postal Service intends to file a request for an advisory opinion on the plan with the PRC later this month. Community meetings would then be conducted to review options in greater detail. Communities will be notified by mail of the date, time and location of these meetings.
This new option complements existing alternatives, which include:
In July 2011, the U.S. Postal Service announced that it would review about 3,700 post offices throughout the country and provide a list of recommended closures. In total, 36 Alaskan postal facilities were selected for review. Following the review and after hearing from countless Alaskans, 31 post offices were taken off of the review list. The five remaining Alaskan postal facilities still under review are not affected by today’s announcement and their statuses will be determined in the near future.
In Southeast Alaska for example, proposed post offices hours for Kake, Angoon, and Hydaburg would reduce their hours of operation from 8 hours to 6 hours. (Click here for a full list of Affected Post Offices and proposed hours of operation.)
U. S. Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) said, “One thing that is certain is that no post offices will be closed before May 15. But we’re still not clear about the remaining 5 in Alaska that were on the docket to be closed. The Postmaster General continues to have reports, or proposals, that are very inconsistent. They change every time they speak over there and right now we are still not clear what it all means. The real solution to this issue around the post office and one that reforms the post office is a Senate bill that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. It’s now sitting over in the House waiting for action. If the House would just take action on it we would have more certainty. We would know the hours and operation and really move towards real reform. Instead, we have the Postmaster General coming out with a new plan every day it seems creating more uncertainty.”
While the USPS did say that no Alaska post offices would close before May 15th, they failed to clarify the future of Alaska’s contract stations in Douglas, Eielson AFB, Fort Wainwright, Elmendorf AFB, and the postal store in Anchorage, creating uncertainty for those communities said Begich. USPS says they have no plans to close these five contract stations at this time, but since these contract stations are not protected under USPS’ new plan, there is no guarantee that they won’t close in the future. In addition, a number of Alaska post offices, may now be facing a reduction in operating hours.
“Congress has a responsibility to act – and act quickly on postal reform legislation,” said Rep. Don Young (R-AK). "My hope is that the House will consider the Senate-passed legislation soon, so the Postal Service has long-term stability. However, as I have said before, I will not only oppose legislation that cuts postal service to Alaskans, but I will lead the fight to ensure it does not see the light of day.”
Alaskan Congressman Don Young (R) applauded today’s announcement from the U.S Postal Service (USPS) saying that it will keep thousands of rural post offices open. Specifically, instead of closing post offices, the new plan allows rural communities to keep their post offices open with reduced hours.
“Rural post offices often times serve as the heart of a community,” said Rep. Young. “While today’s announcement certainly seems like a step in the right direction for Alaskans, I still want to see further details of the plan and ensure that this plan – under no circumstances – leads to the closure of Alaskan post offices.”
Young said, “Since the Postal Service announced its plan last July, I have not been alone in my battle to keep Alaska’s rural post offices open. Thousands of Alaskans have written the Alaskan Delegation as well as the Postal Service and even participated in rallies to keep our post offices open.”
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said in a prepared statement, "Since this business hour change decision will save the postal service twice as much as the original closure proposal would have, I am hopeful that Alaska closures will be seen as unnecessary. I will continue to be a strong advocate for postal access statewide -- the residents of Douglas and our military families need the mail as much as rural Alaskans.”
“I have always said that I would fight any cut from any government service that hurt Alaska disproportionately -- and it appears the USPS is attempting to address its tough financial situation while maintaining full access to postal services," said Murkowski.
“In an era of e-mail and text messages, the United States Postal Service is feeling the pinch in the form of billions of dollars of red ink –and Alaskans are always ready to do our part in times of need. Altered business hours at post offices may be a fair method of shared sacrifice," said Murkowski.
Survey research conducted by the respected Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) in February of this year, showed 54 percent of rural customers would prefer the new solution to maintain a local Post Office. Forty-six percent prefer one of the previously announced solutions (20% prefer Village Post Office, 15% prefer providing services at a nearby Post Office, 11% prefer expanded rural delivery). This strategy would enable a town to possibly have a Post Office with modified hours, as well as a Village Post Office.
The Postal Service has implemented a voluntary moratorium on all postal facility closings through May 15, 2012. No closings or changes to Post Office operations will occur until after that time.
In addition to maintaining a retail network of more than 31,000 Post Offices, the Postal Service also provides online access to postal products and services through usps.com and more than 70,000 alternate access locations. Nearly 40-percent of postal retail revenue comes from purchases on usps.com and through approved postal providers such as Wal-Mart, Staples, Office Depot, Walgreens, Sam’s Club, Costco, and many others.
The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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