Thursday, August 4, 2011
Waterford P.O. on possible closure list
By SUE WATSON
The only post office in Marshall County on the United States Postal Service’s study list for possible closings is the one in Waterford.
The post offices at Waterford, Michigan City, Dumas, Tiplersville and Etta are among 61 mostly rural Mississippi offices that will be studied for possible closure in this four-county area (Marshall, Benton, Tippah and Union).
Some 3,700 are listed as possible targets for closing nationwide in a streamlining and cost-cutting measure to put the USPS back in the black ink. The USPS lost $8.5 billion last year. The Postal Service is working to provide more convenient access for customers in other ways through Expanded Access, while trimming existing costs, according to Nancy Ross, Southwest corporate communications specialist with the Postal Service.
Gladys Chandler, with the USPS, said the word has gotten around that the Waterford Post Office is on the list of possible closings and that people served in the Waterford community are definitely aware of the situation and are worried.
Eric Shaw, an 11-year employee at the Waterford Post Office, said there are 534 rural mail boxes on the single route and 71 post office boxes rented. The office has two full-time employees and two substitutes, he said.
The new facility opened in 1986 and the post office leases the building, he said.
Ross said there is expected to be a four-month review of the post offices on the study list to see which ones are least profitable. There is supposed to be a 60-day appeal process, if it is determined the Waterford office should be closed, she said. Ross said cost to keep offices open is not the only factor. Transportation and proximity to other offices are also big factors, she said.
Although the Red Banks Post Office is not listed as one that could be cut, Shaw said the rural routes in Red Banks are now handled out of the Holly Springs Post Office. He said the Red Banks facility will be open for two years before any changes could be made there.
Shaw said the closing of the Waterford facility would affect a lot of people who depend on the post office to purchase money orders – one of the major transactions at the facility.
If the Waterford Post Office does close, people will have to travel to Potts Camp, Abbeville or Holly Springs to buy stamps and send packages, or purchase money orders. Rural delivery will continue.
Ross said the postal service began the process of studying closings in January, with a list of 1,400 facilities that could close, to see if the process could work for USPS. Since that time 280 facilities across the nation were closed in the first round; it was decided 200 facilities would not be closed; 300 facilities have not yet been looked at; and another 620 are in a different process of being studied for possible closing, she said.
After that study was begun, a new list of 3,700 was established and the postal service is looking at those. The Waterford Post Office was not in the original 1,400 undertaken for study in January, she said.
If Waterford Post Office comes under serious consideration for closing, the customers will be notified by mail and a notice will be posted at the office when and where a public hearing will be held in the community to take public comment, Ross said. The meeting will be held in the community and any comment will be made a part of the findings and will be considered in making a final decision on whether to stay open or to close, she said.
“We are just like everybody else these days; we have to try to make it work cheaper and faster and to satisfy most of our customers,” Ross said. “It is our goal to help make the Postal Service leaner, faster and stronger, while providing great service to our customers. The new Village Post Office concept can provide small communities with postal products and services where its residents already shop.”
Conway Moore, whose daddy was the postmaster when the Waterford Post Office was located opposite the tracks from the new facility, said she is very concerned about losing the post office.
“They talked about closing this one once before,” she said. “I am willing to do anything – stand on my head – to keep it. The highway came through and Waterford dried up when they routed traffic to New Highway 7. All Waterford has left is the store on the corner (Friendly Express), the Post Office and a little beauty parlor.”
Moore said she would like to hear from others who want to push to keep the post office open.
The proposed closings nationwide stack up to about one in 10 of the USPS retail outlets that may be axed to streamline operations and save the postal service money. The offices are important to rural communities because they provide access, jobs, and serve as a place where people meet to exchange local news. The post office sometimes also provides some income to the local community if it leases a building.
Some people prefer to rent a post office box rather than have their mail placed in an outdoor mailbox because mail theft is a concern for some people.
“The Village Post Office does offer that option for post office boxes,” Ross said.
The postal service operates 31,871 retail outlets nationwide. If all outlets on the study list were closed it would amount to about 11.6 percent of the outlets closing.
Outlets operating in the red are the ones most at risk for closing, according to media reports. Dean Granholm, vice president of delivery and post office operations, said an interview with the media that the postal service is looking to identify outlets that are operating at a deficit and will look for the opportunity to start the process of closing.
The closings will reduce the number of employees and the service has cut staffing by one-third since 1999, according to reports.
Results show the Postal Service has reduced its complement from nearly 800,000 in 1999 to approximately 583,000 – a reduction of 217,000 employees, Hall said. The service has tried to deal with the financial problems by raising rates, cutting services or proposing to drop Saturday delivery, she said.
While this push to cut costs is likely the most serious one yet, Granholm said the current push is drawing widespread attention from Congress now in a battle to reduce government spending.
“The Postal Service is committed to providing service to all customers whether via telephone, computer, a visit to your local business, or by a regular visit to the local post office,” Hall said.
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