Minden Press-Herald

Thursday
Jul 24th

Shorter hours, could equate to longer lives

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U.S. Postal Service announced May 9 that a new strategy could keep Webster's smallest post offices open for business.

Shortened retail hours will allow town's ZIP Codes and community identity to remain intact and access to P.O. Boxes and retail lobby hours to remain.

"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. We believe (this) announcement will serve our customers' needs and allow us to achieve real savings to help the Postal Service return to long-term financial stability," Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe said.

New strategy complements existing alternatives including: providing mail delivery service to residents and businesses in the affected community by either rural carrier or highway contract route, contracting with a local business to create a Village Post Office and offering service from a nearby post office.

A voluntary early retirement incentive for the nation's more than 21,000 non-executive postmasters was also announced.

Seven Webster post offices are planned to have shorter hours: Cotton Valley would go from eight to six hours; Cullen from eight to six; Dubberly from eight to four; Heflin from eight to four; Sarepta from eight to six; Shongaloo from eight to four and Sibley from eight to six.

Postal customer Shirley Skinner is happy that the closures are not going to happen.

"I think it would have been a bad effect on the country because it seems like we're taking away more and more of our conveniences. Especially for the older people," she said.

"I can't drive and get around as well as I used to, and I feel comfortable coming up here."

Skinner said she thinks the new strategy of shortening hours would not have a negative impact on the community.

"I think generally that'll be okay because if you work, you're still able to move around and you can manage to get to the post office in Minden. I don't think it will affect most of the local people," she said.

Communities will be given the chance to ask questions and weigh in on the proposed changes at community meetings. Notification of meeting times and locations will be made by mail.

The plan will go to the Postal Regulatory Commission for review and an advisory opinion prior to making any changes.

"The post offices in rural America will remain open unless a community has a strong preference for one of the other options. We will not close any of these rural post offices without having provided a viable solution," Postal Service Chief Operating Officer Megan Brennan said.

The Postal Service has implemented a voluntary moratorium on all postal facility closings through today (May 15). No closings or changes to post office operations will occur until after that time.

In addition to a retail network of more than 31,000 post offices, the Postal Service provides online access to postal products and services through usps.com and more than 70,000 alternate access locations.

Nearly 40 percent of postal retail revenue comes from online purchases and through approved postal providers such as Wal-Mart, Office Depot, Walgreens, Sam's Club and many others.

A list of affected post offices and additional details are available at http://about.usps.com/ news/electronic-press-kits/our-future-network/welcome.htm.

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