Written by Patty Decker Tuesday, 04 December 2012 17:58
Citing a reduction in workload and continued loss of revenue, the U.S. Postal Service announced late last week that it plans to meet with residents of Lehigh to consider four options regarding the future of its post office.
In addition to the meeting scheduled in Lehigh for 6 p.m. Jan. 8, USPS officials will be talking to Cedar Point residents Thursday to review what’s next for their facility, too.
According to Sharon Predoehl, POST Plan coordinator in Omaha, Neb., about 13,000 locations nationwide are being reviewed in an effort to save more than half a billion dollars.
“The postal service has established a review process for certain post offices known as the POST Plan,” she said.
“The Lehigh Post Office was among the offices evaluated under the POST Plan criteria.”
Lehigh residents who haven’t filled out their survey yet have until Dec. 18 to do so, Predoehl said.
She said he four options are:
• keeping the Lehigh office open, based on the actual workload. In the case of Lehigh, hours would be reduced from six each weekday to two hours per weekday. Saturday hours would not change and access to delivery receptacles would not be impacted by POST Plan.
• conducting a discontinuance study for the office and offer roadside mailbox delivery. Mail delivery point would be established and customers can purchase most postal services through the carrier or other alternative access points.
• conducting a discontinuance study for the office and finding a suitable alternative location operated by a contractor, usually at a local business. When businesses are found that meet the criteria, these establishments are contracted through USPS and offer stamps and flat rate products with service hours generally more expansive than what the local post office would be able to offer.
• conducting a discontinuance study for the office and providing post office box service via another nearby postal facility and relocating post office box delivery to the post office.
Predoehl said the January meeting would allow residents the chance to ask questions and get additional information about POST Plan.
“Although survey results will be known and shared,” she said, “the postal service will not make any final decision regarding this office until after the public meeting.”
The reason, she said, is to allow postal officials to time to get community input and opinions from both the surveys and the meeting before making the final decision.
“Unless the community has a strong preference (more than 60 percent) for conducting a discontinuance study, the postal service intends to maintain the Lehigh Post Office with two hours of window service each weekday,” she said.
The Postal Service is also searching for locally established businesses or organizations to serve as contractor-operated postal retail units, Predoehl said.
At the Cedar Point facility, one unnamed source said he believes the POST Plan there would “most likely be reduced to four hours per day.”
Another person speculated that other post offices within the county would be facing similar changes in the near future.
In addition to Lehigh and Cedar Point, those facilities include Peabody, Burns, Florence, Lost Springs, Ramona and Elbing.
Six months earlier, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran said the moratorium that went into effect in May was “a win” for communities in Kansas.
“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.
Residents in Lehigh, as in most rural communities, believe losing the post office would be the same as losing their identity.
According to Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Donahoe, this is a two-year program to provide the best service for rural communities while attempting to save money and stabilize the agency financially.
“Meeting the needs of postal customers is, and will always be, a top priority,” Donahoe stated.
Lehigh’s postmaster relief employee is Ruth Coyle, who declined to comment on the issue.