Six local post offices — Beaver, Clallam Bay, Joyce, LaPush, Nordland, Sekiu — may get hours reduced under new cost-cutting plan

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WASHINGTON — Six post offices on the North Olympic Peninsula are among several hundred statewide that could see retail hours trimmed in a bid by the U.S. Postal Service to stem hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.

Under the proposal announced Wednesday, 13,167 post offices nationwide would have their retail windows open between two and six hours a day.

Access to the retail lobby and to P.O. boxes would remain unchanged, and the town's ZIP code would be retained.

The new strategy would be carried out in phases over two years and would not be completed until September 2014 for an estimated $500 million in annual savings if fully implemented.

Before taking action on the plan the Postal Service has to get approval from the Postal Regulatory Commission and community input.

Community meetings would be conducted to review the reduction in hours and other options. Residents would be notified by mail of the date, time and location of these meetings.

Under the plan, these Peninsula post offices would see their hours cut:

■ Beaver (98305) — 8 hours to 6.

■ Clallam Bay (98326) — 8 hours to 6.

■ Joyce (98343) — 8 hours to 4.

■ LaPush (98350) — 8 hours to 4.

■ Nordland (98358) — 8 hours to 6.

■ Sekiu (98381) — 8 hours to 4.

A previous proposal to close more than 3,000 rural post offices completely would have saved $200 million a year. No Peninsula post offices were slated for closure under that plan.

“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 Patrick R. Donahoe said in a statement. “We believe today's announcement will serve our customers' needs and allow us to achieve real savings.”

The service loses $25 million a day and has proposed eliminating Saturday delivery and closures to restore profitability.

The move to halt the shuttering of 3,700 low-revenue post offices followed months of dissent from rural states and their lawmakers, who said the cost-cutting would hurt their communities the most.

In recent weeks, rising opposition had led Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe to visit some rural areas in a bid to ease fears about cuts that could slow delivery of prescription drugs, newspapers and other services.

In an election year, the angst over postal closings also extended to nearly half the senators, who in letters last week urged Donahoe to postpone closing any mail facility until Congress approves final postal overhaul legislation.

The Senate last month passed legislation aimed at making it harder to close post offices and steering the USPS toward other means of saving money.

The House is weighing plans to permit more aggressive cuts than the Senate, which could make hashing out a final law difficult.

Other measures include buyouts

Instead of trimming hours, the plan also gives communities several alternatives to consider:

■ Close their post office and start up door-to-door delivery.

■ Offer stamp sales and fixed-rate shipping in already-existing small community businesses such as local pharmacies or grocery stores.

■ Merge the local post office with another nearby post office.

Some lawmakers are worried that the plan isn't drastic enough to help pull USPS from its forecast $14.1 billion debt.

"The truth is that reducing hours in rural post offices will not save significant amounts compared to the Postal Service's overall budget," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

The plan would save an estimated half billion dollars every year by reducing hours and replacing full-time career employees with part-time workers, said USPS Chief Operating Officer Megan Brennan.

USPS also will offer buyout packages of up to $20,000 to 13,000 workers eligible for retirement, Brennan said.

"Stopgap, piecemeal measures like the proposal offered today only address a small part of the problem and will not keep the Postal Service from an imminent collapse," says Sen.Tom Carper, D-Del.

"The Postal Service needs a comprehensive solution, not more tinkering around the edges."

USPS will announce more changes next week about the closings of mail processing centers and service standards such as overnight delivery, said USPS spokeswoman Susan McGowan.

"I remain troubled that processing facilities could still be closed beginning just next week, which makes no sense at all given the progress on postal reform legislation," says Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Last modified: May 09. 2012 8:04PM
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