Postal Service officials will hold a series of meetings across rural Nebraska to determine the best way to reduce post office hours as part of the agency's efforts to save money.
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The Lincoln Journal Star reported (http://bit.ly/QKubVa ) that one of the first meetings will be held in Crab Orchard on Tuesday. Other meetings are also planned in Bee, Brownville, Nemaha, Elk Creek, Endicott and Swanton. Some of the affected locations will be open as little as two hours a day after the changes.
The U.S. Postal Service expects $15 billion in losses this year, and in the past month, it missed two payments totaling $11.1 billion for future retiree benefits. Most of the shortfall is related to those benefits, and postal officials say no other government agency or business is required to make similar payments. But mail volume is also down.
The Postal Service has been working to reduce costs by consolidating operations and reducing staff, but Congress would not sign off on its plan to close several thousand rural offices and reduce deliveries to five days a week. The Postal Service did get approval to close more than 200 mail processing centers staring next year, but the estimated annual savings of $2.1 billion won't be realized until the full cuts are completed in late 2014.
Postal officials plan to complete the reduction in hours at rural offices by September 2014.
Todd Case, who manages Lincoln-area post offices, said 87 of the 109 rural post offices in his zip code territory will be affected.
"We're starting with vacant offices right now where we don't have a permanent postmaster," Case said.
Leaders in the towns of Hallam and DuBois are sad to see the loss of hours, but also are glad the offices will remain open. DuBois' 140 residents raised $25,000 five years ago to buy the building that housed their post office.
"I guess, in a way, it's 'you win some, you lose some,"' said Ray Musil, a DuBois town board member. "Sure, it's an inconvenience, if it's only two hours a day, but it's a lot better than being closed."
Hallam's post office was just rebuilt after its predecessor was destroyed by a 2004 tornado. Town board member Mark Simonson said he's not sure what hours the post office should remain open.
"They're not going to please everybody with one or the other," he said.
Case said postal officials will try to find retail outlets that could sell stamps and provide some postal services to help fill in the gaps.
State-by-state graphic showing post offices being considered for reduced hours: http://apne.ws/QMOOzh
Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com
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