Postal Service targeting rural post offices for reduced hours

Cuts expected to save $500 million annually
By Ben Holbrook | Jan 23, 2013

Small rural post offices in Waldo County could see reduced hours as part of a plan by the United States Postal Service to cut expenses.

The reduction in hours is part of an effort by the Postal Service to prevent the rural post offices from closing. Tom Rizzo, spokesman for the Northern New England District, said the company estimates the reduction in hours will save about $500 million a year once it is fully implemented.

Rizzo said the plan calls for the curtailed hours to be implemented in phases, with all affected post offices having their hours reduced by September 2014.

The United States Postal Service has seen a dramatic drop in mail delivery since 2006, when it peaked at 213 billion pieces of mail. Rizzo said projections call for First Class mail deliveries, which he said are the “stock in trade” of the business, to continue to decline.

Rizzo said in 2009 mail volume decreased by 1.77 billion pieces and projections show mail volumes are expected to continue to decrease through 2020, with an estimated 150 billion pieces of mail being lost.

“We don’t expect to regain those losses,” Rizzo said.

The decrease in mail volume continues to plague the Postal Service’s bottom line, as Rizzo reported the company lost $15.9 billion in fiscal year 2012. In an effort to cut costs, he said, the Postal Service consolidated postal districts, offered early retirement incentives, cut its employment from 900,000 workers to 530,000 and sold buildings and vehicles, among other measures.

The reduced hours of operation will affect 13,000 post offices across the country, Rizzo said.

Islesboro Postmaster Lucille Tigges said her post office will be reduced from eight hours a day to six hours. While she and other residents are not pleased about the reduced hours, Tigges said the cutback is better than a closure.

“At least we’re still open,” she said.

Tigges said the summer months are particularly busy for the post office, when the population increases from about 500 year-round residents to more than 3,000. She estimated the number of letters, packages and other pieces of mail triples or quadruples during those months.

As part of the process for reducing hours, Rizzo said, meetings are scheduled to take place in towns where targeted post offices are located. In addition to Islesboro, meetings to discuss the reduction in hours are scheduled for this month in Brooks, Frankfort, Liberty, Stockton Springs and Thorndike.

For more information about the United States Postal Service plan regarding reduced hours of operation, go to about.usps.com/news/electronic-press-kits/our-future-network/welcome.html.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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