The North Bend Eagle


 

Bluff post office survives

by Nathan Arneal
Published 5/23/12

USPS reverses plan to close small post offices, opting to reduce hours.

It looks like Morse Bluff, Prague and Snyder will get to keep their post offices after all.

Click here to see the full list of post offices targeted for potentially reduced hours.

Post offices in those three communities were among the 3,700 locations nationwide that the U.S. Postal Service was considering shutting down to save money.

Brian Sperry, a regional spokesman for the USPS based in Denver, told the Eagle that the feedback received after informational meetings in many of those communities, including one in Morse Bluff last October, convinced the Postal Service to go in another direction.

“We listened to our customers in rural America,” Sperry said, “and they want to keep their post office open, and we’ll work with them to do that.”

Instead of possibly shutting down 3,700 post office locations, the USPS will instead look to reduce the retail hours at some 13,000 of the nation’s smallest post offices.

Morse Bluff, Prague, Snyder, Cedar Bluffs and Scribner are among the 317 post offices in Nebraska being considered for reduced hours.

The USPS has proposed cutting the hours at Morse Bluff, Prague and Snyder from eight hours a day to four hours a day.

Scribner and Cedar Bluffs would be reduced from eight to six hours a day. Sperry said these hours will more accurately reflect actual demand and usage at each post office.

“What this does is preserve the rural post offices while allowing the postal service to cut costs and return the organization to financial stability,” Sperry said.

The hours at the North Bend Post Office would not be affected by the proposal.
Sperry emphasized that the list of affected post offices and the hours they might be reduced is preliminary and subject to change.

Over the next two years, community meetings will be held at each of the 13,000 affected locations. Communities will be given the new option of reducing the retail hours of their local post office, or going with one of three options that were previously proposed:

• being serviced by a rural carrier route

• contracting with a local business to create a village post office, which would be able to sell stamps, provide P.O. boxes and stay open extended hours

• offering service from a nearby post office. Sperry said two nearby communities that are slated to have post offices open four hours a day could go together and have one post office stay open eight hours.

“Those are the four options,” Sperry said, “and the communities will be able to choose which one works best for their community. The new strategy – and the one we think most communities will adapt – is the one of modifying retail hours and keeping the post office open.”

Until the community meetings are held, post offices will operate as usual. No post offices will see reduced hours until Labor Day at the earliest.

The plan will not be finalized until the fall of 2014 and is expected to save the Postal Service half a billion dollars a year.

So far this year the USPS has lost $6.3 billion. That figure is expected to rise to $14 billion by the end of the year. Mail volume has dropped 25 percent over the last six years and retail sales have done down 26 percent in that same time period.

Sperry said reducing hours at small post offices is only a part of the plan to save the postal system.

“We still need Congress to make some changes to our business model that will allow us to be successful and remain viable into the future,” he said.

Among those changes Postal Service is hoping for include the ability to operate their own health care programs independent of federal programs.

The USPS is also proposing reducing delivery from six to five days a week. With this plan, post offices open on Saturdays would remain open and mail would be delivered to P.O. boxes, but there would be no street or rural route delivery. Sperry said this option would save the USPS $3 billion annually.

Any such changes to the postal system require congressional approval. Until that happens, Sperry said, the USPS will lose approximately $25 million per day.

“We’re hopeful that his will happen and (Congress) will give us the flexibiliy to adapt to the changing marketplace,” Sperry said, “because obviously more and more people will continue to pay their bills online and use e-mail.

“We understand that, but we still thing there’s a place for the mail. We’re still bullish on the mail, but we’ve got to make some changes to our organization. With the business model we’re currently operating under, we’re losing billions and billions.”

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