According to the Associated Press, the nearly bankrupt U.S. Postal Service this week backed off a plan to close thousands of rural post offices after May 15 and proposed keeping them open, but with shorter operating hours.
“The move to halt the shuttering of 3,700 low-revenue post offices followed months of dissent from rural states and their lawmakers, who said the cost-cutting would hurt their communities the most,” wrote Associated Press Writer Hope Yen. “In recent weeks, rising opposition had led Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe to visit some rural areas in a bid to ease fears about cuts that could slow delivery of prescription drugs, newspapers and other services.”
Nine months ago, 3,653 post offices came under review for closure across the country. Those included urban centers such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, as well as small towns from Plymouth, Mass., to Wallula, Wash. The Postal Service called them “low activity,” defined by low foot traffic, average sales of less than $50 per day and less than two hours of work per day. Most were located within five miles of another post office location. About 3,000 of them bring in less than $27,500 in annual revenue.
In North Carolina, 20 post offices were under review for closure.
In Richmond County, the rural post office of Norman was threatened with closure. Concerned for the rural and elderly population of Norman, former mayor Jean Stutts wrote to Congressman Larry Kissell about what to do. She also had 95 people sign a petition protesting the closure and sent it to the U.S. Postal Services’ office in Charlotte.
“We’ve listened to our customers in rural America, and we’ve heard them loud and clear — they want to keep their post offices open,” said Donahoe. “We believe today’s announcement will serve our customers’ needs and allow us to achieve real savings to help the Postal Service return to long-term financial stability.”
Donahoe has prodded Congress to act on legislation that will allow the agency to move ahead with a broader multi-billion dollar cost-cutting effort and return to profitability by 2015.
“Now we just have to wait for Congress,” said Stutts. “It could be a year before they act on it. The Norman Postmaster said they could reduce their open days to three times a week. I think everybody would be happy with that. At least for a year we can breathe.”
The Postmaster is unable to speak on behalf of the Postal Service.
Postal Service Media Relations Officer Monica Robbs said the Postal Service is waiting for a resolution to pass both House and Senate and make its way to the president for a signature, but hope to reduce workforce and hours of operation in order to stay open in small communities while cutting their budget.
“The reduced times will be more in line with the small town’s habits of use,” said Robbs. “The post officers were suffering from declining usage to begin with, because more and more people are using the Internet. It’s win-win for everybody. We are going to hold community meetings and get input about the reduced hours before we make a final decision. It will be a gradual process. We want to fulfill our obligations to the communities but our hands are tied financially.”
“That’s a great thing,” said Norman Mayor Kenneth Broadway. “I hope they keep us open and reconsider for our small town and small towns like us. I’m sure the townspeople are tickled to hear this. Between the House and the Senate, I hope we can keep it open.”
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.