POST OFFICE PLAN
See the entire proposed list of rural post offices with reduced hours across the nation by clicking here.
Residents of places such as Daisy and Rocky Ford are uttering sighs of relief that their post offices will remain open. However, the U.S. Postal Service’s new plan for saving small post offices will spread the pain more widely with greatly reduced hours at these and many other locations.
The Portal and Register post offices will be affected, as two of more than 13,000 rural mail facilities expected to be open fewer hours.
Last year, the Postal Service listed Daisy, in Evans County, and Oliver and Rocky Ford, both in Screven County, among nearly 3,700 post offices and retail outlets eyed for closure. Under the plan unveiled Wednesday, these three small offices will retain their identities. But instead of the traditional eight hours per business day, the Daisy post office will be open only four hours after the plan is implemented. The Oliver and Rocky Ford offices will be open just two hours.
“That is better than nothing,” Rocky Ford Mayor James Hankinson said. “I’m sure it will be a busy time during those two hours that people come buy their stamps and their money orders and get their mail.”
He and many other community members took an active role in efforts to keep their post office. Residents of the Rocky Ford area packed a town hall meeting last summer. Local officials and volunteers wrote letters to members of Congress and the Postal Service Board of Governors.
More than 270 local people signed a petition, Hankinson said. That’s more than Rocky Ford’s population of 144 in the 2010 census, but the mayor believes that the census missed some people inside the city limits, and the post office has traditionally served a wider area.
Although the proposed closure has now been canceled, the Rocky Ford post office had already lost its two delivery routes, which were transferred to the Sylvania post office in November. That limited the Rocky Ford office’s delivery function to its post office boxes.
Still, local officials think that keeping an office in town, even with reduced service, remains a benefit.
“We have a lot of senior citizens that don’t have mailboxes, and they like to come to town to pick up the mail and see other people,” Hankinson said.
Rocky Ford’s city government also values its own post office box. For residents paying water bills and city taxes, the P.O. box seems much more secure than would a drop box at the City Hall, City Clerk Beth Ward said. She said the availability of money orders at a secure location was also a concern for people who otherwise deal in cash.
Rocky Ford’s City Hall already opens just two hours per day, so the post office would be open the same number of hours once the plan is implemented.
The Postal Service plans to hear public input this fall before seeking regulatory approval and has projected that the changes would be implemented over two years, concluding in September 2014. Officials project that the plan will save about $500 million a year through reductions in full-time staff.
In Daisy, another town of fewer than 200 people, Mayor Inman Brown Jr. and his wife, City Clerk Carolyn Brown, led a campaign to save the post office. Blue ribbons went up on homes and trees to show support. They also wrote letters to members of Congress and postal officials.
Unlike Rocky Ford, Daisy had no home delivery to lose, just post office boxes. More than anything, the Browns said, the fight for the post office was about protecting their town’s identity. They watched the Postal Service website Wednesday afternoon to see the new list as soon as it appeared.
The mayor, who had said that he would be glad to have the post office open even two hours a day so long as it remained Daisy’s, was pleased to see it listed as a proposed four-hour location.
“It’s the light at the end of the tunnel,” Brown said. “We had just about given up, thinking things were not going to work out, but this really sounds good and it looks like they’re not just hitting on a few places, they’re sort of letting all of them feel the pressure.”
If the plan is implemented as proposed, other post offices in the area with reduced hours will include Portal, open six hours a day; Register, open four hours; Pulaski, four hours; Dover, two hours; and Hagan, six hours.
A list of all the affected facilities and the proposed number of hours can be accessed through a link in Wednesday’s news release at http://about.usps.com. The list contains a note describing it as “a preliminary list that requires additional review, analysis, and verification, and is subject to change.”