Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Small town post offices to remain open, with reduced hours

By Alannah Allbrett

In an announcement last Wednesday, the United States Postal Service says it will adopt a new strategy to preserve services in small town post offices by reducing window hours. 

According to USPS spokesperson, Ernie Swanson, reduced service hours, as an alternative to closure, will take place, affecting 13,176 post offices nationwide. 

Locally, the Ahsahka post office will decrease its eight hour day to four hours per day as will Lenore. Pierce will decrease from eight to six, and Peck will move from eight hours of service to four. Elk River will move from six hours to four. Exact hours of service have not been determined yet. 

These adjustments are based upon the amount of usage – how many customers actually avail themselves of live postal services. The walk-in traffic is tallied at the computerized work stations which calculate the amount of customers each day, sales, and services. Swanson said that some post offices will be reduced to as few as two hours per day, due to lack of activity and demand. None in northern Idaho were on the two hour operating schedule. 

At town meetings, customers have told the government their rural post offices are very important; some people receive services such as prescription medications via the mail. More and more people pay their bills and communicate via the internet, however which has reduced the volume that traditionally goes through the U.S. mail. 

Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe. 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.” 

In January, 2012, first class postage rates were increased a penny from 44 cents to 45 cents. No foreseeable increase in postage rates is scheduled. The government estimates it can save a half a billion dollars per year, however, by implementing reduced hours. The plan would be phased in by 2014. 

Eligible Postmasters, nearing retirement, will be offered a $20,000 retirement incentive. Remaining postmasters would go from salaried positions to an hourly wage, reducing costs overall. “Most of these small offices are run by one Postmaster and a relief (PMR) person who fills in during vacations or illness” said Swanson. 

Anita Brumley of Ahsahka, began her career in postal work in 1976. She worked in the Orofino Post Office from 1980 to 2005, and became Postmaster of Ahsahka in February 2005. When asked what her reaction to the news of no closure was, she said she had “mixed feelings.” About early retirement she said, “I will read the information and make a decision.” Carolyn Smith is the PMR for Ahsahka.

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