Written by Patty Decker Tuesday, 15 May 2012 14:26
The self-imposed moratorium set to end Tuesday that could have seen the closure or consolidation of 134 U.S. Postal Service offices in Kansas ended when a plan to keep them open was put into motion last week.
According to information from Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer Patrick R. Donahoe, a decision was reached to cancel plans to close almost 4,000 offices nationwide because of community and congressional pressure.
“This news is a win for communities across Kansas,” said U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, who is also a member of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
“For the last year, we have been asking the postal service what Kansans need to do to save their post offices—and USPS listened.”
However, the flip side is many of those facilities will face drastically reduced service hours and minimal staffing.
Yet, for the majority of rural communities, drastic cutbacks to remain open are better than closure.
“Instead of closing the post offices that were under study, USPS will adjust hours of operation to match customer use at post offices across the country, resulting in an estimated savings of half a billion dollars annually,” Moran said.
Prior to the recent decision, area post offices being studied for closure included Peabody, Burns, Florence, Lost Springs, Lehigh, Ramona, Cedar Point and Elbing.
The new strategy to keep the USPS viable would be implemented over a two-year, multi-phased approach and, according to the USPS plan, it wouldn’t be completed until September 2014.
The plan would also give communities a few other options to include:
• closing their post office and starting up door-to-door delivery;
• offering stamp sales and fixed-rate shipping in already-existing small community businesses such as local pharmacies or grocery stores; and
• merging the local post office with another nearby post office.
For the 400 communities that already lost their post office, this new decision will not affect them. Those offices will remain closed, according to the plan.
Another part of the new plan, would be that about 9,000 current full-time postal employees would be reduced to part time and could lose their benefits with the fewer hours.
“Meeting the needs of postal customers is, and will always be, a top priority,” Donahoe stated.
Moran also said that maintaining rural post offices only amounts to 0.7 percent of USPS’s budget; their closure would have had little benefit to the bottom line while bringing much hardship to rural America.
In real money, Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, stated the smallest 10,000 post offices collectively cost USPS less than $600 million dollars to operate each year.
“That is less than one-eighth of the $5 billion USPS spends each year to operate its network of 32,000 post offices,” Issa stated. “To achieve real savings creating long-term solvency, the Postal Service needs to focus on consolidation in more populated areas where the greatest opportunities for cost reduction exist.”
While many are happy about the latest news, some fear the alternative options could just be a slow death rather than a quick one.
One postmaster said there are still too many unanswered questions with the new plan.
The postmasters in Lehigh and Ramona both said Friday they could not comment about this latest news.