USPS proposes new plan

Published 9:04 am Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Powellsville Post Office is among 25 across the Roanoke-Chowan area that may see a reduction in their hours of operation. File Photo


Area post offices may soon be cutting back their hours.

Last week, a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) regulatory agency signed off on a USPS proposal to reduce retail window and service hours to avoid post office closures.

The Post Office Structure Plan (POSTPlan) was presented back in May by the USPS and on the list of more than 13,000 slated to cut business hours are 25 of the 33 post offices in the Roanoke-Chowan area.

According to a USPS press release, the plan could keep the nation’s smallest post offices open for business, while providing a framework to achieve significant cost savings as part of the plan to return the organization to financial stability.

The plan would keep the existing post office in place, but with modified retail window hours to match customer use (to either six, four or two hours). Access to the retail lobby and to PO Boxes would remain unchanged, and the town’s ZIP Code and community identity would be retained.

The new strategy would be implemented over a two-year, multi-phased approach and would not be completed until September 2014. Once implementation is completed, the Postal Service estimates savings of a half billion dollars annually.

The following list are those area post offices affected by the USPS plan and their proposed business hours reduction:

Cofield (from eight to four hours)

Colerain (from eight to six hours)

Como (from eight to four hours)

Conway (from eight to six hours)

Corapeake (from eight to four hours)

Eure (from eight to four hours)

Gates (from eight to six hours)

Gatesville (from eight to six hours)

Harrellsville (from eight to four hours)

Henrico (from eight to six hours)

Hobbsville (from eight to four hours)

Kelford (from eight to four hours)

Lewiston-Woodville (from eight to six hours)

Margarettsville (from eight to four hours)

Merry Hill (from eight to six hours)

Pendleton (from eight to four hours)

Pleasant Hill (from eight to four hours)

Potecasi (from eight to two hours)

Powellsville (from eight to four hours)

Roduco (from six to two hours)

Roxobel (from eight to four hours)

Seaboard (from eight to six hours)

Severn (from eight to four hours)

Sunbury (from eight to six hours)

Woodland (from eight to six hours)

Last Thursday, The Postal Regulatory Commission issued an advisory opinion on the plan and found it “to be consistent with public policy, and acknowledged it may reduce retail service and customer convenience at post offices by reducing weekday hours of operation.”

To further enhance the implementation of the POSTPlan, the Commission Advisory Opinion provided recommendations concerning access, community input, revenue and staffing. Among the Commission’s findings are:

The customer preference survey should provide customers with a clear choice between (1) keeping their post office open with reduced hours or (2) closing their post office and providing replacement delivery service.

To the extent possible, the Postal Service should not implement a reduction in retail hours at POSTPlan facilities prior to making necessary modifications to buildings and/or operations so that current levels of access for existing post office box customers continues.

The Postal Service’s instructional memorandum to area vice presidents and district managers should explain that every effort should be made to locate qualified staff and successfully negotiate a lease before overriding a community’s preference for a POSTPlan office with realigned hours.

The Postal Service’s instructional memorandum should reflect the Postal Service’s stated POSTPlan policy, especially as it relates to Village Post Offices (VPOs).

An internal review and data collection plan will help the Postal Service evaluate whether the POSTPlan is meeting its objectives and goals. Monitoring and measuring changes in revenue at POStPlan offices should be part of post-implementation reviews.

The Postal Service has assured the Commission through written and oral testimony that access to postal services will be maintained in the following ways:

Post offices will continue to provide the same services they provide today.

Access to post office boxes will remain unchanged.

Collection boxes at post offices will remain in place.

Saturday hours will not be affected.

Post offices in the most remote and isolated locations will remain open at least six hours each weekday.

The Postal Service also emphasized that it generally will not close offices unless a community expresses a strong preference for discontinuance.