Three area post offices will see their service hours reduced under the U.S. Postal Service’s latest plan to cut costs.
Under the plan, announced Wednesday, May 9, the Big Clifty office would go from being open eight hours per day weekdays to only six hours. The post offices at Millwood and Falls of Rough would only be open four hours per day.
The postal service estimates that the new plan — which reduces hours at 13,167 offices nationwide — will save $500 million a year once it is fully implemented in 2014. A previous proposal would have closed more than 3,000 rural post offices — though none in this area — to save $200 million a year.
“We’ve listened to our customers in rural America and we’ve heard them loud and clear. They want to keep their post office open,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in a statement. “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.”
Millwood postmaster Gladys Duvall said Friday she’s not sure what the postal service plans for in the long run for her office. Currently, it is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and for three hours on Saturday mornings.
“It’s too early to say what they’ll do,” Duvall, who’s worked for the postal service 37 years, said. “It won’t hurt me — it’s going to hurt the community in the long run.
“I don’t know if it would help for people to contact their congressmen,” she said.
The postal service had originally targeted rural post offices because they cost more to run than they generate in revenue. Some of the smallest rural post offices earn an average of $15,000 annually, but cost $114,000 to operate, it said.
Aside from reducing hours, the Postal Service said it would also explore merging offices that are close to one another or contracting for delivery directly to homes and businesses. An additional 400 post offices that were scheduled to be closed will also be given options to keep services in one form or another.
Pending approval from the Postal Regulatory Commission, the plan would go into effect after Labor Day and be completed by fall 2014.
The postal service loses more than $20 million a day, and in February proposed closing hundreds of offices and mail processing centers nationwide and eliminating Saturday mail delivery in an attempt to stop the financial hemorrhaging.
Communities on the closure list protested, as did newspapers and other periodicals such as The News-Gazette that rely on Saturday delivery to reach their customers in a timely fashion.
In April, the Senate passed legislation that put the brakes on those plans, delaying a decision on Saturday delivery for at least two years and making it harder to close post offices, particularly in rural areas. It also would refund $11 billion the postal service overpaid into a federal retirement benefits account, and let the postal service use the money to encourage as many as 100,000 workers to take buyouts.
Despite Wednesday’s announcement, the long-term future of the postal service hangs in the balance. The House has yet to move on its postal reform bill, and the plans it is weighing would permit more aggressive cuts to service than the Senate legislation.
And the postal service still wants to end Saturday delivery, and it said it would announce the fate of hundreds of processing centers later this month.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.