2012-05-15 / Front Page

New Strategy Would Save Post Offices, Cut Hours In Coal City, Freedom & Quincy

Operating Hours Also To Be Cut In Bowling Green & Patricksburg
by Michael Stanley
Staff Writer

A reduction of business hours is in the works for many U.S. Post Office locations, including in Quincy, reducing hours from eight to four daily. 
(SEW File Photo) A reduction of business hours is in the works for many U.S. Post Office locations, including in Quincy, reducing hours from eight to four daily. (SEW File Photo) Bending to strong public opposition, the U.S. Postal Service on Wednesday backed off its plan to close thousands of rural post offices after May 15 and proposed keeping them open, but with shorter operating hours.

The move to halt the closing of 3,700 low-revenue post offices followed months of public outcry, most notably from residents of rural areas and their lawmakers, who said the cost-cutting would hurt their communities the most. In recent weeks, rising opposition had led Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe to visit some rural areas in an effort to ease fears about cuts that could slow delivery of prescription drugs, newspapers and other services.

According to a press release from the USPS, the plan would keep the existing Post Office in place, but with modified retail window hours to match customer use. Access to the retail lobby and to P.O. Boxes would remain unchanged, and the town’s zip code and community identity would be retained.

In Owen County, post offices in Coal City, Freedom, Patricksburg and Quincy are proposed to cut operating hours from eight to four hours each business day. However, the Bowling Green Post Office will be directed to reduce its operating hours from four hours to two hours daily. Hours will also be reduced for post offices in Centerpoint, Worthington and Solsberry, from eight to six hours daily.

“After we had the community meetings, I heard from so many people in the community with heartfelt things about how they wanted to save their post office,” USPS Greater Indiana District Corporation Communications Director Mary Dando said. “The announcement is our strategy to try and do so. As they say, America spoke and we listened. We hope it will provide us a framework for significant cost savings because of our situation.”

The multi-phased approach would be implemented over a two-year period that ends September 2014. The move is anticipated to generate a savings of 500 million dollars annually.

“The postal service is committed to serving America’s communities and providing a responsible and fair approach for our employees and customers,” U.S. Postal Service Chief Operating Officer Megan 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 overall plan must be approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission prior to implementation, as the USPS plans to file an advisory opinion request later in May. Communities will be notified by mail of the date, time and location of the meetings.

“We are going to start setting up those community meetings again so we will be getting more feedback from the public on the various options for alternate access,” Dando noted. “We want people to have the access and we’re going to make it possible for them. As we move forward with the plan, I’m sure more details will be released.”

Changes will include delivery services to affected community residents and businesses by rural carrier or a highway contract route. The plan also calls for contracting with a local business to create a Village Post Office and offer services from a nearby post office.

In an effort to help with the issue of employee costs, the USPS will also offer a voluntary early retirement incentive for more than 21,000 non-executive postmasters across the country.

“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,” Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe said Wednesday. “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.”

According to a February research study conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation, 54 percent of rural customers prefer the new solution to maintain a local post office. An additional 46 percent said they would prefer one of the previously announced solutions, with 20 percent in favor of Village Post Offices, 15 percent for providing services nearby and 11 who prefer expanded rural delivery.

A voluntary moratorium on all USPS facility closings through May 15, 2012 has been implemented and no closings or changes will occur until after that date. The new strategy enables towns to have a post office with modified hours as well as a Village Post Office.

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