About 35 residents gathered inside the Mullinville Recreation gym last Tuesday evening to discuss and vote on proposed window hours for their local post office. United State Post Office (USPS) Representative Kyle Goodwin addressed concerns and fielded questions from city residents about the reduction of operating hours, expected to take effect next month.
“We are looking at ways to reduce our expenses,” said Goodwin, acting manager of USPS operations for south-central Kansas. “There are a lot of things that we are trying to do. We don’t have the mail volume we used to. Our current financial situation today is not very good.”
The USPS reported a $15.9 billion loss for the 2012 fiscal year. Although that figure includes a $13.5 billion pre-payment for retiree benefits, a congressional-mandated expense not required by other government agencies.
Last week USPS reported a $1.3 billion loss for its first fiscal quarter of 2013, which included the typically mail-heavy holiday season.
“The encouraging results from our holiday mailing season cannot sustain us as we move deeper into the current fiscal year and face continuing financial challenges,” said Patrick Donahoe, U.S. postmaster general and CEO of USPS in a statement. “By moving forward with the accelerated cost-cutting actions directed by our Board of Governors, we will continue to become more efficient and come closer to achieving long-term financial stability.”
An increase in electronic correspondences and a reduction in the use of first-class mail have significantly lowered annual revenue.
Statistics provided by USPS show a 27 percent decrease in customer retail visits from 2005-2011.
In May 2012 USPS officials proposed the POSTplan, an operational realignment that would have closed nearly 3,500 low-performing, mostly rural, post offices across the country.
Overwhelming congressional opposition resulted in an alternative plan to reduce the operating hours of 13,000 post offices nationwide.
The Mullinville post office, serving about 200 residents in the 67109 zip code, was in-line for reduced hours following the relocation of previous postmaster Theresa Darbyshire to Syracuse.
Hours of the Haviland and Greensburg post office will be automatically reduced to 6 hours per day in September 2014, although retirement or relocation of either postmaster would accelerate those changes.
Mullinville residents were sent surveys last month to decide how to proceed with proposed reductions.
Officials sent 201 surveys to area customers and 88 were returned.
Eighty of the surveys wanted a “realignment of hours.” Four wanted a delivery option, one wanted a “nearby post office option” and three were returned without making a selection.
An overwhelming number of residents at the meeting last Tuesday voted for 8 a.m. until noon operating hours.
None of the returned surveys preferred the “village post office” option, which would have relocated the post office into an existing business or governmental office.
Page 2 of 4 - Goodwin, who oversees all post offices in the 670, 671 and 673 postal prefixes, said the new hours would have very little effect on the arrival and delivery of the mail.
Envelopes and parcels in the blue box outside of the post office will be picked up on the same day by 4:30 p.m.
Currently, customers with p.o. boxes can retrieve their mail 24 hours a day in the lobby. The changes would not effect current lobby hours, although window hours for purchasing stamps, picking up or dropping off oversized parcels and purchasing postage would only be available 8 a.m. until noon.
Weekday home delivery service would continue uninterrupted.
One resident said they would be unable to pick up their mail due to an out-of-town work schedule.
Goodwin acknowledged it was a common issue with many of the 4-hour post offices.
“We want to get you your mail,” he said. “We don’t want your delivery to be affected. If you have a situation where you need service, call. If you have a package and you can’t get [to the post office] during the hours they are open, you can authorize your neighbor to pick it up. We can make arrangement, to work with you to get you your mail.”
While the Saturday window hours will remain 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., Goodwin said residents should expect a discontinuation of Saturday regular home mail delivery on Aug 5.
Earlier this month, Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe announced USPS would discontinue Saturday home delivery beginning in August.
A number of congressional leaders, including Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) ardently opposed the idea, while polls indicate overwhelming support from the public.
“Eliminating Saturday mail delivery is not a solution that will solve their financial crisis as a whole,” said Moran, a member of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that over sees the USPS. “After numerous meetings with the Postmaster General, I know smart reforms are needed to make certain the Postal Service can compete in a digital world, increase revenue, and not become a taxpayer liability.”
A recent survey conducted by Pew Research Center found 54-percent of those polled agreed with the five-day delivery proposal, while only 32-percent disagreed.
The postal service does not receive tax dollars to fund daily operations; but it is subject to congressional authority.
Previously USPS was not allowed to move to a five-day delivery service by a mandate tied to congressional spending bills, but since the government is currently operating on a temporary spending measure, postal officials say it can legally make the change.
Page 3 of 4 - On Tuesday Goodwin said he expects USPS to continue some parcel delivery on Saturday although he did not know what types of parcels or packages would be delivered.
Postal officials have said while first-class and letter mail services were on a decline, parcel and package delivery was up 17 percent last year.
“We’re a company that is losing billions of dollars,” said Goodwin when asked if the changes were permanent. “I can’t say that anything is permanent. If we can stabilize, I’d imagine there will be very little done, in addition to these changes. If we can’t stabilize, I am sure we will continue to look at where we can make some savings. A lot depends on our financial situation.”
Goodwin said most of the post offices that have closed, would likely remain closed.
“You can help by purchasing stamps and mailing packages at your local post office. That’s what pays our bills. We are a customer dependent business,” he added.
Pat Barnes, the current acting manager of the post office also answered questions from residents about how the changes would effect p.o. box delivery times and if she would be able to work double duty, filling boxes and servicing customers at the counter.
“The other day it was a very light day and I had the mail out at about 8:45 a.m.,” she said. “Around the holidays it will get pushed back some but first-class mail will always be out at 9:15 a.m., even if I have to kill myself.”
Barnes also said the new hours would be very similar to her current hours.
“With the window open at eight, I can stop for 10-15 minutes to help you with a package,” she said. “That won’t bother me a bit. Most of you are very courteous and patient with me. I feel [the new hours] are very doable.”
“So long as we don’t go in a visit with her forever,” quipped a resident.
The changes are expected to take effect within thirty days.
Dave Moyer, a 40-year Mullinville resident said he felt the adjustments were warranted.
“I think it’s good,” he said. “It seems like they need to find some savings so it seems like a good idea.”
Moyer said he sends “some” letters, but like many people he often communicates through phone and e-mail.
Kiowa County Commissioner Ron Freeman was also at the meeting and seemed agreeable to the changes.
Page 4 of 4 - “I doesn’t really have an effect on me at all. The important thing is that you can still get your mail in until 4:30.” Commenting on the increase in reduction of post office hours nationwide Freeman said, “I don’t know what other choice they have.”