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Rural post offices cut hours to save money

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Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 1:54 pm

The Tri-Lakes Area is starting to see the impact of a U.S. Postal Service plan unveiled in May which will limit retail hours at 13,000 post offices across the country in an attempt to cut expenses.

According to the USPS “Post Plan,” hours are being trimmed at eight post offices in Taney County and three in neighboring Stone County.

Residents in affected communities were sent surveys from district offices. The surveys were the first step in the two-year process expected to be complete in September 2014.

Community meetings began last month around the country.

Locally, four of the 11 impacted post offices will have their retail hours cut from eight to four a day, according to the plan. The other seven post offices will be trimmed to six hours of operation a day.

Some of those offices are already operating at slightly reduced hours, according to the USPS website.

Post offices being cut to four hours a day include Bradleyville, Cedarcreek, Powersite and Protem.

Those being cut to six hours a day include Kirbyville, Kissee Mills, Ridgedale, Taneyville, Blue Eye, Cape Fair and Lampe.

Some post offices in other parts of the country are being reduced to only two hours of operation a day.

Richard Watkins, USPS spokesman for this part of Missouri, said the reductions are intended to match up retail hours with a decrease in customer use.

“What I’ve heard from the field is that we’re running about 75 to 80 percent of survey respondents saying they prefer the offices remain open with reduced hours,” Watkins said.

He said the post office has not yet decided to close any rural locations in the area.

“There are many factors we take into account when it comes to closing a post office,” Watkins said. “Revenue is important, but that’s not what drives our decision.”

The cuts come after the post office already initiated what it called Delivery Unit Optimization, or DUO, a move which made carriers from several communities sort and pick up mail at neighboring post offices.

In the Tri-Lakes Area, the post offices in Protem, Cedarcreek and Powersite were impacted by the DUO plan.

USPS officials hope the newest cuts will save the company $500 million a year.

Those locations being cut to two or four hours a day will be managed by part-time employees who will be paid hourly wages and receive no benefits, while six-hour offices will be managed by part-timers with some benefits, according to USPS spokeswoman Sue Brennan.

USPS also is offering buyouts and early retirement packages to thousands of staff members nationwide.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said earlier this year the reduction of hours and the switching of workers from full time to part time would generate most of the savings.

Donahoe called the plan a “win-win.”

USPS has made additional cuts as well. It closed a number of processing centers across the country, including the one in Springfield. That cut 200 jobs by the end of this year and moved operations to Kansas City.

Watkins said the cuts are needed.

“The money is just not there like it use to be,” he said. “We recognize that and we have for years.

“Since 2000, we reduced our payroll by nearly a quarter-of-a-million employees,” Watkins said. “But there are a lot of good things happening as well. We expect a 20 percent increase in parcel volume this year.”

The final decision on new, reduced operating hours for many of the Tri-Lakes Area’s post offices has not yet been made. Watkins said those decisions are usually delayed by at least seven days following the public meetings at the rural locations.

The new hours in Powersite, where a public meeting was held in mid-November, will be from 11:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Monday through Friday, with Saturday hours unchanged.

Other rural locations in the area will have their new reduced hours finalized in the next week. Like the Powersite changes, the new hours will likely go into effect in February 2013.

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