Local Post Offices' hours will change
The Greenwood Post Office is expected to have its window service hours reduced beginning in January, and post offices in Bryant Pond, Newry, West Bethel, Hanover, Andover, East Andover and West Paris could follow suit in 2013.
About 25 people crowded into the lobby of the small Post Office in Locke Mills last week to hear the results of a customer survey on preferences for reducing hours at the office.
Residents were notified of the possible change by letter in mid-September. Four options were offered, including reduced hours and three variations on closure.
Surveys were mailed to 376 customers in Greenwood, and 153 returned them. Of those 84 percent preferred changing the hours to the other choices.
Leigh St. Pierre, acting Post Office operations manager, presented the results and the expected changes to the gathering in Greenwood last week.
The service window is currently open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays and from 8 to 11:30 a.m on Saturdays. The new weekday hours will likely be Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. – but with a break for the postal clerk from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Saturday hours would remain the same, from 8 to 11:30 a.m,. because Saturday mornings are the busiest, she said.
The cutback in weekly hours would save on payroll, which St. Pierre said is the USPS’ largest expense.
She estimated the new hours in Greenwood will likely take effect around Jan. 10.
The collection box outside the office will continue to have the same mail pick-up hours. She said there is also a possibility that the lobby may remain open 24 hours a day to provide access to boxes.
Some at the meeting wondered about possible mail – and identity – theft under those circumstances.
St. Pierre said such concerns are usually not a problem in a rural area like Greenwood.
Tom Rizzo, spokesman for the Northern New England District of the Postal Service, said Thursday that a Federal Trade Commission study in 2008 found that compromised mail constitutes only 2 to 4 percent of ID theft. Increased online purchases and the sharp reduction in mail volume since that time would likely reduce that percentage even further, he said.
Other small post offices in the area will also likely see reduced hours, but Bethel’s office hours will remain the same, she said.
Offices with a permanent, career postmaster would not see hours changed until 2014.
A preliminary list on the USPS website of offices that are under consideration for reduced hours shows Andover, Bryant Pond and West Paris could have weekday hours reduced from 8 hours to 6; Hanover and Newry from 8 to 4; and East Andover from 6 to 4.
Rizzo said that 244 small post offices in Maine are under consideration for reduced window hours.
Options call for hours to be reduced to two, four or six hours a day, but in all cases the USPS will seek customer input on the distribution of those hours or the possibility of closing the office with other options for mail delivery.
He said the USPS will conduct post office community meetings throughout 2013.
Rizzo also provided some national perspective on the issues the USPS faces.
The Postal Service reached its all-time peak mail volume in 2006, handling 213 billion pieces of mail. By 2011, that number was down to 166 billion, a 25 percent reduction. In the last fiscal year, he said, the USPS lost $14 billion. For an agency that has to be financially self-sustaining, that means change is needed.
“The Postal Service must realign its operations to meet customer demand in the age of electronic communication,” he said.
Last year the USPS considered closing almost 3,700 rural post offices nationwide, but instead has decided to propose reduced retail (window) hours at 13,000 of them, including those in Maine.