Five post offices in rural parts of York, Chester and Lancaster counties might reduce retail hours over the next two years in a money-saving plan introduced by the Postal Service this week.
The Postal Service says it will save more than a half-billion dollars a year by trimming hours at more than 13,000 offices nationwide.
Post offices in Hickory Grove, McConnells and Smyrna in York County, Edgemoor in Chester County and Van Wyck in Lancaster County are likely to be part of the cutback, according to a list published on the Postal Services website.
Edgemoor resident Treva Cooper, 47, said reduced hours would greatly affect her ability to pick up her mail from her post office box one of nearly 200 mail boxes in the Edgemoor office that are unavailable whenever the post office is closed.
The Edgemoor office is currently open on weekdays for four and a half hours in the morning and two and a half hours in the afternoon. On Saturdays, the office is open for three hours for residents to collect their mail.
The Postal Services plan would trim Edgemoors retail hours to six hours a day.
Theres going to be times during the weekdays, if theyre closing early, I wont be able to get over here and check my mail, Cooper said. If I get something important, and then have to wait until the weekend to get it, something might get turned off or if I have to be somewhere, I wont know until the weekend comes.
If the retail hours change, Cooper hopes the post office will be able to leave the front door unlocked so customers can check their mail inside.
In McConnells, Tom Tackett, 42, said there might be other options such as using competitors like UPS or ordering mailing supplies on the Internet but nothing can replace the personal service he gets from Postal Service employees.
Tackett and McConnells postal worker Cassandra Torrence know each other by name. He visits the post office at least twice a week.
This post office is right here, he said. If hours changed, I would have to go somewhere else, which I dont want to do.
Access to post office boxes in the McConnells location is available 24 hours a day. The office is attached to and shares four parking spaces with McConnells town hall.
Richard Little, 49, a local pastor in McConnells said he uses both the York and McConnells post offices. Rather than closing early, the post office should be considering staying open later, Little said.
I also think they could cut out being open on Saturdays, he said.
Residents will have their chance to tell the Postal Service their opinions and recommendations directly in September. Surveys will be mailed to those living in rural areas explaining the potential changes and asking for the communitys preference.
Survey options will include the choice of reducing hours by two or four hours each day, designating what part of the day post office hours are most desired and the option of closing the post office altogether, said Monica Robbs, a Postal Service spokeswoman.
Financial stress for the Postal Service did not happen overnight and can be linked to three basic issues, Robbs said:
Reliance on email and other forms of communication affects the Postal Service, as increased usage has cut into a great deal of our business.
Congress Postal Accountability Act requiring the Postal Service to pre-fund retiree health benefits is a factor in the organizations current financial issues, causing the Postal Service to default on that payment recently.
An overall cutback in commercial spending due to a weak economy and the housing crisis in America led to a drop in revenue for the Postal Service.
Our volume declined, but our network remained the same, Robbs said. Whether a person is receiving one piece of mail or six pieces, it costs us the same.
In addition to planning retail hour reductions, the Postal Service is looking at consolidation of more than 500 processing plants around South Carolina and North Carolina, Robbs said. One plant in Hickory, N.C., will be closed by Sept. 1, she said, with that areas mail needs being transferred to a processing plant in Greensboro.
Another money-saving venture is implementation of village post offices.
In 10 to 12 places around the Carolinas, the Postal Service is working with businesses and contractors interested in operating post offices out of existing buildings, Robbs said. The village post office would replace stand-alone post offices in some towns but still provide the services residents are used to.
Although changes are inevitable in rural towns where post offices are not as busy, Robbs said, she believes the good will outweigh the bad.
The organization is prepared to hear back from residents who dont want anything to change, she said, but based on Postal Service studies, weve got to do something.
Anna Douglas 803-329-4068