Thursday, May 17, 2012
Rural post offices may stay
By SUE WATSON
A systemwide plan to close 3,700 mostly rural post offices, including the one in Waterford, has stalled at least temporarily.
Waterford was included last year in a study of how the community sees the post office as needed.
Eric Shaw, a part-time employee at the Waterford Post Office, said the office has received a communication of the U.S. Postmaster’s intent to cut back on postmasters and to reduce hours at many post offices that were under study for closing. But he does not know what changes will be in order if the Waterford Post Office is kept open.
Currently, the office is open 40 hours a week or eight hours a day Monday through Friday and is closed on Saturday. He works part-time or about 32 hours a week in the office as officer in charge and provides carrier relief on Saturdays for his brother Tim Shaw. Another part-time employee substitutes for the postmaster who is over the Waterford office but works in another community. That part-time substitute, who serves as postmaster relief, works about two hours on Saturday and eight hours in the office to relieve other employees – or about 10 hours a week, he said.
Most small, rural offices have two regular employees as carriers and two substitutes, he said.
Shaw said the recent communication about how to manage the Postal Service’s burgeoning debt without closing rural offices is encouraging.
“It will stall it a few months, anyway, since they are arguing over it in Congress,” he said.
There are more than 13,000 rural mail facilities that could be affected by the roll-back in hours while the Postal Service hones its strategy to save about a half billion dollars a year – a strategy it would implement by 2014, according to media reports.
“We’ve listened to our customers in rural America and we’ve heard them loud and clear – they want to keep their post offices open,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said at a news briefing about the proposed closings.
Megan Brenan, the Postal Service’s chief operating officer, also believes the plan will be to cut back to save money but keep most offices open.
“At the end of the day, we will not close rural post offices until we receive community input,” she said in an interview by the media. “We believe very few post offices will be closed over the next few years.”
Among cost-cutting measures under consideration by the Postal Service, Saturday mail delivery could end. Additional measures to cut costs include reducing hours of operations, weeding out full-time postmasters who do not have contract protection and replacing them with part-time workers, and offering buyouts for about 21,000 postmasters in an attempt to trim staffing costs.
The postal service is $13 billion in debt and under pressure to prepay future retiree health benefits. The service is required to pay over $11 billion to the U.S. Treasury to prepay future retiree benefits and expects a cash crunch in late summer if Congress fails to provide relief.
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