HOUGHTON - The U.S. Postal Service announced a new strategy Wednesday that will keep rural post offices open but cut their retail window hours, and 25 local post offices will likely be affected.
The plan would keep existing post offices, maintain access to the retail lobbies and P.O. boxes, and retain each town's zip code and community identity while providing a cost savings to the financially-strapped USPS.
"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 and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe said in a written statement Wednesday. "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."
Stephen Anderson/Daily Mining Gazette
The Covington Post Office is one of 25 post offices in Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties that will likely see new retail hours under a proposed new strategy by the U.S. Postal Service.
A preliminary list of affected post offices that is subject to change was released at 4 p.m. Wednesday. Included on the list are offices affected in Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties.
The following offices will be reduced from eight retail hours per day to four: Ahmeek, Amasa, Atlantic Mine, Bergland, Ewen, Hubbell, Mass City, Painesdale, Pelkie, Toivola, Trout Creek, Watton and White Pine. Bruce Crossing, Dollar Bay, Lake Linden, Mohawk and South Range will be reduced from eight retail hours to six. Copper City, Covington, Greenland, Rockland and Sidnaw will go from eight to two. Nisula will go from six to four and Skanee from six to two.
The new strategy, which the USPS expects will save a half billion dollars annually, would be implemented over a two-year, multi-phased approach that would not be completed until September 2014.
The USPS will allow the Postal Regulatory Commission to review the plan prior to making changes. Community meetings will be held starting in September to discuss possible options. Post office closings are possible, but only if the community wants that solution.
"The post offices in rural America will remain open unless a community has a strong preference for one of the other options. We will not close any of these rural post offices without having provided a viable solution," Postal Service Chief Operating Officer Megan Brennan said in a statement Wednesday.
Surveys done by Princeton, N.J.-based Opinion Research Corporation in February revealed 54 percent of rural customers would prefer the new solution to maintain a local post office.
The USPS also announced Wednesday it will be offering a $20,000 voluntary retirement incentive to 21,000 non-executive postmasters.
Several local postal representatives contacted this morning had not yet seen the list of proposed hour changes and they were still awaiting word through the mail on the impact to their post offices. Local postmasters and officers-in-charge are still not allowed to comment publicly, but several said that they are anxiously waiting.
"It's a step in the right direction as far as continuing essential postal services to customers. We're going to have to look at this thing further," said Tony Carobine, president of the American Postal Workers Union AFL-CIO National Postal Press Association in Iron Mountain.
For more information on this developing story, visit usps.com.