As part of what it described as a “next step in right-sizing” its retail operations, the United States Postal Service announced Tuesday, July 26 that it is examining the possibility of closing as many as 3,700 — slightly more than 10 percent — of its locations around the country.

Among those being eyed are 34 post offices in Maine, according to information on the USPS website, including one in Waldo County: the Sandy Point Post Office, in the neighborhood of the same name in Stockton Springs.

The Sandy Point Post Office — ZIP code 04972 — has post office boxes where customers receive mail, but no mail is delivered to residences from that post office. The Stockton Springs Post Office, located on Main Street, is the center for all residential mail delivery in that town, as well as for Prospect (Stockton Springs and Prospect share a ZIP code, 04981).

In a press release announcing the plan to study the closures, the Postal Service’s top official cited the proliferation of what the agency refers to as “expanded access locations” — grocery stores, drug stores, office supply stores and the USPS website, — and said such facilities now account for more than 35 percent of USPS’s retail revenue.

“Our customers’ habits have made it clear that they no longer require a physical post office to conduct most of their postal business,” said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, in the July 26 press release.

The press release also stated that as more customers choose to conduct their business at expanded access locations, the need for the USPS to “maintain its nearly 32,000 retail offices … diminishes.”

In addition to announcing the possibility of closures — described as “retail optimization efforts” in the press release — USPS also announced a replacement model called “Village Post Office.”

According to USPS, the Village Post Office model would be operated by local businesses — such as pharmacies, grocery stores and “other appropriate retailers” — and would sell products such as stamps and packages.

“By working with third-party retailers, we’re creating easier, more convenient access to our products and services when and where our customers want them,” said Donahoe, in the press release. “The Village Post Office will offer another way for us to meet our customers’ needs.”

The press release gave no indication of how many of the 3,700 post offices, if they were to be closed, might be replaced by the Village Post Office model. Nor was it immediately clear, from the press release, what — if any — the specific distinctions were between the present expanded access locations and the proposed Village Post Offices.

Members of Maine’s Congressional delegation issued statements expressing concern following the Postal Service’s announcement. Sen. Olympia Snowe said the financial challenges faced by the USPS “should not preclude the preservation of universal postal service and convenient community access.”

Snowe said she is encouraged that USPS has pledged to work to find ways to continue to provide postal products and services in the communities that would be affected by any potential closures, and said she would continue to monitor the situation.

Sen. Susan Collins said maintaining the nation’s rural post offices “costs the Postal Service less than one percent of its total budget and is not the cause of its financial crisis.” Earlier this year, the Postal Service reported that it had a net loss of more than $2 billion for the second quarter of its fiscal year (which ended March 31).

“While there are some areas where postal services could be consolidated or moved into a nearby retail store to ensure continued access, this simply is not an option in many rural and remote areas,” said Collins, who offered Matinicus Island as an example.

The post office on Matinicus is one of those being eyed for possible closure. A complete list of Maine post offices set to be studied can be found at the following website:

Congressman Mike Michaud, like Collins, said rural post offices are not the cause of the financial problems the USPS is experiencing.

“The Postal Service needs to address the real drivers of their fiscal problems and not roll back vital services for rural Mainers,” said Michaud, in his statement.

In a letter to Postmaster General Donahoe, Michaud said he was concerned that the criteria the USPS would be using to consider post offices for possible closure “do not adequately measure the importance of small rural post offices on the local level.”