Options range from reducing hours to closure
By Lynn Volkens
The Post Offices at Central City, Rollinsville, Pinecliffe, Coal Creek and Ward are among the 184 Colorado Post Offices that the United States Postal Service (USPS) is considering for reduced hours of operation or potential closing. According to the Post Office Structure Plan (POStPlan) “realigning” hours of retail operation may be the solution to avoid complete closure of some 13,000 small rural post offices across the United States.
As part of the USPS evaluation process, surveys are being sent to postal customers who have Post Office boxes or receive rural delivery in the zip code area of the Post Offices being considered. In the case of the Rollinsville Post Office, (zip code 80474) the survey asks for input on four options:
1) Keeping the Post Office open, but reducing the window hours to four per day Monday through Friday with the Saturday hours remaining unchanged.
2) Conduct a discontinuance study for the Post Office in question, and provide delivery through a rural carrier. (A discontinuance study is the USPS procedure for evaluating the feasibility of continued Post Office services. Several factors are looked at, including insufficient customer demand.)
3) Conduct a discontinuance study, and find a suitable alternative location to be operated by a contractor. These are usually inside an already established local place of business, but cannot be in any establishment which sells alcoholic beverages.
4) Conduct a discontinuance study, and provide Post Office box service via another nearby post office, relocating the Post Office box deliveries from the current Post Office to the nearby one.
Box holders and rural delivery customers of the Rollinsville Post Office should receive their surveys by January 9, 2013. After that date additional survey forms will be available at the counter. The USPS will review completed surveys that are returned. Then Rollinsville Post Office customers are invited to a community meeting where they may ask questions or add further input. That meeting has been scheduled at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at Roy’s Last Shot in mid-Gilpin County. The USPS has not yet posted the dates when surveys will be distributed and meetings held for the Central City, Pinecliffe, Coal Creek and Ward Post Offices.
If the USPS decides to implement the first option, keeping the Post Office open but reducing hours, the proposed changes, per the USPS website, would be for the Pinecliffe, Ward and Coal Creek post offices to decrease window service hours the same as proposed for Rollinsville – from eight hours per day to four hours per day during the week, and keep Saturday hours as they stand now. For the Central City Post Office, window service would be reduced from eight hours to six hours per day during the week, maintaining current Saturday hours. Six-hour per day offices will be staffed by a part-time Postmaster. Post Offices reduced to four (or two) hours per day will be staffed by a non-career “relief” Postmaster. In all cases, customers would still have access to their Post Office boxes 24 hours every day.
If the Rollinsville, Pinecliffe, Ward and Coal Creek Post Offices are reduced to the four-hour per day schedule, the Postmasters of those offices will continue in their current full or part-time positions until sometime in 2014. After that, Postmasters of six-hour per day offices will be demoted to the position of part-time Postmaster with a salary adjustment equivalent to the appropriate hourly pay. Postmasters of the offices which are reduced to four-hour days, will not automatically become the part-time non-career Postmaster of that office, but may have the opportunity to retire or resign from the full-time position and then be reemployed in the part-time non-career position. There are numerous conditions detailed on the USPS website, regarding personnel options, including opportunities for early retirement.
According to their website, the USPS reaches 151 million Post Office boxes, residences and businesses, from 32,000 retail locations. It was ranked by Oxford Strategic Consulting as number one among postal services in the world’s twenty wealthiest countries. Yet, the USPS closed out their fiscal year 2012 with a net loss of $15.9 billion (compared to $5.1 billion net loss at the end of fiscal year 2011). The main financial impediment facing the USPS is not fewer customers, although First Class Mail has seen a 3.9% drop (electronic bill paying affected First Class Mail, but that decline is now slowing); and Standard Mail dropped by 4.3% (but appears to recovering). Package service increased by 8.7% ($926 million). According to Postmaster General, Patrick Donahoe, improved productivity has produced cost savings for 13 straight quarters. The postal service has reduced controllable expenses, but is hampered by a major uncontrollable expense – 2006 legislation which mandated that the USPS “pre”- fund 75 years’ worth of healthcare benefits, for future workers, over a ten year period; that’s $5.5 billion per year. The 2012 net loss ($15.9 billion) includes payments to the future retiree healthcare benefits “pre” fund of $11.1 billion and accounts for approximately 70% of the USPS losses.
The USPS receives no tax dollars and relies on the sale of postal products and services. It generates annual revenues of around $65 billion. Donahoe called for legislative changes that would allow the USPS to determine frequency of delivery, sell non-postal products and services, streamline governance so that pricing and product decisions would be made more quickly, require labor negotiators to consider the financial condition of the USPS when rendering decisions, and resolve the overfunding of the Federal Employees Retirement System. Meanwhile, the USPS is looking to further reduce the expenses they can control by closing or relocating Post Offices, or reducing window service hours to the times most used by customers. The national list of Post Offices being considered for these changes includes some Post Offices (urban, suburban and rural) in all fifty states. View that list at http://about.usps.com.