Local POs facing reduced hours
Embattled Postal Service cutting back to save money
Times Staff Writer
Originally published 2013-02-21
Amid financial difficulties for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) that have cropped up in recent years, the agency is looking at new ways to strengthen its financial climate.
Two of those proposals — reducing hours for rural post offices and discontinuing Saturday mail delivery — are expected to impact post offices in the Gunnison Basin.
It’s been a tumultuous couple of years for rural post offices in the Gunnison Basin — four of which were previously slated for the chopping block. And though these community staples may not be going away entirely, hours at Parlin, and eventually in Sargents, Powderhorn and Pitkin, will be slashed considerably.
In May 2012, after communities expressed concern about the possible closure of 3,650 rural post offices, USPS proposed a new solution — reducing hours at some facilities to two, four or six operating hours per day, six days a week.
“Obviously there was local concern about loss of community identity, loss of access to services, as well as secondary and tertiary things that a post office means to a town. So we went back to the drawing board and decided to retain services in those communities,” said Dave Rupert, head of USPS corporate communications in Colorado. “We’re changing the hours at 13,000 post offices. That way we can spread the pain and not make it so severe.”
The Parlin post office will be the first in the valley to cut back to two hours, beginning this coming Monday. The office will be operated by a postal clerk and will not be overseen by a postmaster, said Rupert. No official date has been selected for other area post offices, but the changes are slated to be implemented by September 2014.
“It’s going to require a little more planning on the customers’ parts, since they won’t have the same accessibility,” said Rupert. He added that customers will still have 24-hour access to their P.O. boxes, but will only have access to retail services during the limited hours.
USPS ended 2012 with an annual loss of $15.9 billion, according to the USPS Annual Report to Congress. Although the USPS is an agency of the federal government, the entity does not receive taxpayer support and generates income almost entirely through retail services.
But one concerned Pitkin resident said she feels this is just another avenue for the USPS to close down rural offices altogether.
“I think this is just a way for them to slowly strangle our post office,” said Suzy Metzler, a trustee for the Town of Pitkin. “We’re so remote — 27 miles from Gunnison. But there are people who really live here and own home businesses and we just really need a post office.”
She added she believes it will be difficult to find an employee willing to work only two hours per day, six days a week.
Still, Rupert said that there are currently hundreds of post offices across the country that are only open two hours per day.
County Attorney David Baumgarten met with a number of USPS officials last week to discuss the Parlin closures. He told the Gunnison County Commissioners Tuesday that Pitkin, Sargents and Powderhorn post offices were also addressed, which officials indicated would all be reduced to two hours per day, as well.
“We’re not going to be successful at getting hours higher than that,” he told the commissioners.
The total anticipated savings from reduced hours at rural post offices is $500 million.
Another cost-reducing measure, which could save USPS $2 billion, is decreasing mail delivery to all recipients to five days a week, Monday through Friday. Mail will no longer be delivered to street addressed on Saturdays, beginning in August.
Packages and mail addressed to P.O. boxes will still be delivered on Saturdays, and post offices will maintain their Saturday retail hours.
According to a press release issued Feb. 17 by USPS, 80 percent of Americans favor the new delivery schedule.
(Laura Anderson can be reached at 970.641.1414 or email@example.com)