USPS may cut hours to spare post offices

VERMONT — The U.S. Postal Service last week put forth a plan it says would save rural post offices, including several in Addison County that have been on the chopping block.
Instead of closing post offices, the agency is proposing to cut down the hours of some 13,000 rural post offices nationwide, including more than 140 in Vermont and 11 in Addison County.
The local towns that could see a change in post office hours are Bridport, Ferrisburgh, Granville, Hancock, Monkton, North Ferrisburgh, Orwell, Salisbury, Shoreham, Starksboro and Whiting.
The move comes after a summer 2011 attempt to close 3,600 post offices across the country, including ones in Granville and 14 other Vermont locations. The USPS postponed its efforts after it encountered significant pushback from lawmakers and post office patrons, and proposed this new option as an alternative.
Under the new proposal, some post offices would see retail window hours cut back by more than half based on consumer use, according to USPS — from eight to six hours per day to four or two.
Whiting is one of the locations that would have its hours cut in half, to four hours each day. Town Clerk Grace Simonds, who said her daughter is a mail carrier for the town, said the proposal is not ideal, but that closing the post office would be much worse for the town.
“The post office keeps people connected, and five other towns get their mail through Whiting,” said Simonds. “Cutting back on the hours might be the best way to go if they want to save money, but I think they should leave it as it is.”
USPS said the new proposal is an addition to the alternatives it has already proposed, including contracting with local businesses to operate post office windows within existing stores, closing offices but offering service from a nearby post office, and closing post offices but expanding direct-to-home rural delivery.
USPS Chief Operating Officer Megan Brennan said in a press release that the range of options will allow the agency to continue providing postal services to every community.
“The post offices in rural America will remain open unless a community has a strong preference for one of the other options,” she said. “We will not close any of these rural post offices without having provided a viable solution.”
The agency has instituted a two-year rollout for the plan, ending in September 2014.
“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,” said Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe when the plan was announced. “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.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said limiting post office hours is not a solution to USPS’s ongoing financial woes.
“While I have no doubt that some rural post offices could see hours cut, I am concerned about the impact of reduced hours on many communities,” Sanders said in a press release. “The truth is that reducing hours in rural post offices will not save significant amounts compared to the Postal Service’s overall budget.”
Over the coming months, pending approval of the plan by the Postal Regulatory Commission, USPS will be holding community meetings in areas affected by last week’s service announcement. The agency will notify communities of the locations, dates and times of those meetings.
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at [email protected].

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