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SLV post offices face reduced hours

Posted: Thursday, Feb 7th, 2013

Walt McBain, operations manager for the region covering the Valley, left, and Ron Perry, public relations/customer service, explain U.S. Postal Service changes on Wednesday at the Sangre de Cristo School. Courier photo by Ruth Heide

Courier editor

HOOPER — On the same day the U.S. Postal Service announced it planned to end Saturday mail delivery in August, postal spokesmen told a handful of Hooper residents their post office’s hours would likely be reduced later this spring.

The good news, they told Hooper residents attending a public meeting Wednesday evening, was the Hooper post office would not be closed. Last year the Postal Service was considering closing Hooper along with several other post offices in the San Luis Valley, but now these rural post offices will remain open with reduced hours.

Hooper will go from full eight-hour days on weekdays to six hours of operation, proposed from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with no change to the current Saturday hours from 7:30-11:30 a.m.

Walt McBain, operations manager for the region covering the Valley, said the 10:30-2:30 time frame was flexible. Paul Arellano, former Hooper postmaster, suggested an earlier time for opening so whoever was working at the post office in Hooper could schedule other employment for the remainder of the day.

McBain said the proposed changes for Hooper will be posted for 30 days at the post office. Then the hourly changes will take effect, probably at the end of March.

Similar reductions are proposed for Valley post offices such as Manassa (proposed six hours on weekdays), Villa Grove (four hours), Saguache (six hours), Mosca (four hours), Moffat (four hours), Romeo (four hours), Capulin (two hours), Conejos (four hours) and Sanford (six hours.)

Some of those post offices will not see changes until 2014, however, according to McBain. He said changes will occur in the post offices without permanent postmasters first.

McBain and Ron Perry, public relations/customer service, explained the latest postal changes to residents gathered at the Sangre de Cristo School Wednesday night.

The U.S. Postal Service conducted surveys in many communities including Hooper to find out whether postal customers would prefer hour reductions or other options such as the Village Post Office option, where the post office would be located in a retail outlet in the community. McBain said in Hooper and elsewhere postal customers told the Postal Service, “if you need to reduce hours, do it, but keep our post offices in our communities.”

McBain said 124 customer surveys were mailed out to Hooper Post Office customers, and 45 were returned. Of those, 42 (93 percent) favored hour realignment over any other option. No one chose the Village Post Office option or driving to another town like Mosca or Center.

McBain said the Postal Service evaluated post offices across the country on the basis of the revenue they generated, the volume of mail they processed and the customers they served. Proposals for hour reductions were based on those evaluations. Some post offices will only be open two hours a day, for example, others four, some six and others eight hours. Hooper will be on a four-hour schedule.

McBain added the Postal Service will evaluate post offices on an annual basis from now on. Based on those future evaluations, one of three things could happen in Hooper, he said: 1) the post office could remain at four hours daily operation; 2) it could increase daily hours, if revenues and volume increase; or 3) it could be reduced to two hours daily operation.

That is why it is important for people to use their post offices, he said. Even if people purchase stamps on line, he urged them to use their Hooper zip code.

He said the U.S. Postal Service lost $15.9 billion last year, so continuing operations as usual was not an option.

Perry said reducing hours at post offices across the country will save the Postal Service about $500 million annually, eliminating Saturday delivery will save $2 billion annually and consolidating processing facilities, such as Alamosa’s, will save $900 million annually.

Perry said there was no way around making cuts right now. The Postal Service is not tax funded although it is government regulated, so it has to rely on the income generated from products and services, Perry explained.

He said the Postal Service is not just targeting rural areas but is also cutting hours and consolidating services in cities. Those changes are more complicated, so changes are being implemented in rural areas first, he said.

“There’s going to be a major change for the Postal Service,” McBain added. “Our goal is to continue to be the Postal Service and continue to provide the service to everybody and stay in every community and get to the point where we can efficiently do that … and keep our services reasonable and competitive.”

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