The U.S. Postal Service is moving forward with a plan to reduce hours at some 13,000 offices to include Cedar Point and other facilities in Kansas, according to information presented Wednesday at a public meeting in Cedar Point.
As a result of the Post Office Structure Plan or POStPlan, Mike Monnington, manager of post office operations for the Kansas Central Plains, said Cedar Point’s facility is going from seven hours a day to four.
The change is expected to happen in the latter part of January.
A handful of people learned about the decision at the meeting in Cedar Point’s old school gymnasium.
“I like to describe the post office as being similar to a coop (both are not-for-profit businesses),” Monnington told the residents.
Plan gone awry
“When we reorganized in 1972,” he said, “the design was that the postal service wasn’t supposed to make any money. The way it would work in the first year was that the postal service would have a stamp rate increase and make a profit. In the second year, as the cost of operations went up, it would break even.
“As operations continued to go up in the third year, USPS would lose money. But by the fourth year, the Postal Regulatory Commission, with supervisory authority, would grant a rate increase and the cycle would start over again.
It worked well until 2001 when the 9/11 disaster hit.
“It really hurt us,” he said
About that same time, the anthrax issue scared a lot of people. “They were afraid to use the mail.”
Even with these problems, Monnington said, business picked up, but in 2007, the economy went bad and it hurt the postal service.
“So last year,” he said, “Cedar Point was one of the 13 offices in Kansas and a little over 3,000 nationwide studied for closure.”
Based on workload, retail transactions and amount of mail and revenue, USPS decided to close offices.
“But the postal service cannot make decisions on its own,” he said, “and even though we don’t get taxpayer money, we are quasi-governmental and still regulated by PRC.”
All ideas must go through the commission.
As an example, Monnington said that if USPS were to ask for a 10-cent increase, PRC would look at the data and decide all that’s needed is a 1- or 2-cent increase.
“When we announced a discontinuance plan last year, we met with people in towns across the U.S., telling them what we planned to do,” he said.
The studies were sent to PRC and there was feedback from the public to their state and national representatives and to the media about POStPlan.
“PRC didn’t like the plan and they would not let the postal service shut offices down,” he said. “We were told to develop another plan and submit it to (PRC).”
New plan and Cedar Point
Another plan was developed by USPS and it was called, POStPlan, which was approved by PRC, Monnington said.
“Instead of discontinuing over 3,000 offices, we are going to reduce the hours in offices based on workload in about 13,000 offices in the U.S.”
The two changes postal customers will see in Cedar Point with POStPlan include the number of hours open and mail collection.
“When I say a postmaster earns about four hours of workload, they are not twiddling their thumbs the rest of the time,” he said referring to Cedar Point going from seven to four hours.
Postmasters, he said, have other administrative duties to do with the rest of their day.
“They order supplies, stamps, have a multitude of forms required by the postal service and they send data to the mainframe so we can dissect what is happening in the field,” he said.
The administrative duties will shift.
“We are going to take almost all that work away from postmasters working in these offices with reduced hours and, (we) will put it on the postmaster at the administrative office,” he said. “In this case, Lori Kelsey, postmaster at the Marion office, will be responsible for the work the Cedar Point postmaster does now.”
According to Monnington, this change will save USPS money in the long run.
The other change customers will see involves mail collection.
The plan will compress the window, he said. Instead of being open until 3:15 p.m., the projection is that Cedar Point will be open from 8 a.m. to noon.
“Customers will need to do their retail transactions in the morning,” he said. “For those who get mail on rural routes or at a post office box, there are no changes.”
As soon as the postal employee leaves in the morning or at noon, there won’t be anybody to get the mail out of the inside drop.
In explaining how to resolve that problem, Monnington said customers need to use outside boxes for mail instead of the inside box.
“If someone does drop mail in the inside box after the window is closed, it won’t go out until the next day,” he said.
Monnington also reviewed the results of a survey mailed to 111 customers with 45 returning it.
“A lot of communities only got back about 30 percent, but this was about 50 percent,” he said.
Based on the surveys returned, 41 customers (91 percent) were in favor of realigning the hours; two customers (4 percent) wanted the delivery option and the same number were in favor of a nearby post office; none wanted the village post office option and none were in favor of no selection.
Although weekday hours will be reduced, he said the Saturday window service will remain the same from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
Prior to POStPlan going into effect, the purpose of last week’s meeting, Monnington said, was to take into account all information received before making a final decision.
“POStPlan is ever-evolving,” he said, “and starts in fiscal year 2013.”
The postal service will re-evaluate the workload of post offices again and adjust the hours.
The way the plan is set up, he said, is that if an office earns from one minute to two hours, it will be a two-hour office. If it goes from two hours to three hours and 59 minutes, it is a four-hour office and if over four hours, but less than eight, it is a six-hour office.
Larger offices like Marion or Hillsboro, where the workload is greater, will be eight-hour offices.
Use of mail service
Monnington said a lot of the younger generation say they don’t use the post office.
“I have two young men, 29 and 26, and if they mail a card to their mom every year, that’s about the extent of what they use the postal service for,” he said.
The exceptions might be magazines or something someone bought online and needs mailed.
“Writing letters is a lost art,” he said. “I have been told a lot of schools are not even teaching cursive writing anymore.”