Friday, May 11, 2012

TOP STORY >> Small towns glad to keep post offices

Leader staff writer

To stave off bankruptcy, the U.S. Postal Service planned to close 3,700 low-revenue rural post offices after next Tuesday. But opposition was strong among patrons and in Congress and the post master general announced Wednesday that instead of closing any post offices, the hours could be cut at those with low volume.

In Arkansas, 180 post offices, including Garner in White County, Hickory Pains in Prairie County and Keo in Lonoke County, were expected to close. Now, 391 could be open fewer than eight hours a day after Labor Day.

In Lonoke County, the hours at Austin and Scott will be cut from eight to six. Coy will be cut from six to two and Humnoke and Keo will be cut from eight to four.

In White County, the hours at McRae, El Paso, Pangburn and Kensett could be cut from eight to six. Bradley, Griffithville, Higginson, Pang-burn and Romance could be cut from eight to four and Garner could be cut from eight to two.

In Prairie County, Hickory Plains is already at six but could be cut to two in September.

Except for the lists of post offices where the hours could be cut, the Postal Service is releasing little information.

“In December 2011, the Postal Service agreed to impose a moratorium on closing or consolidating post offices and mail processing facilities until May 15, 2012, to give Congress and the Administration sufficient time to enact comprehensive postal legislation,” Leisa Tolliver-Gay, customer relations for the Postal Service, wrote in a press release this week. “None of the network realignment efforts that will be discussed with our employees will begin until after that date, in accordance with the moratorium.”

Shorter hours are expected to save about $500 million a year by reducing full-time staff, but the Postal Service is losing billions of dollars every year because of the high cost of doing business and falling customer support as more and more people communicate through e-mail and pay bills online.

An option to close post offices or create what is being called village post offices in libraries or stores such as Walgreens and Office Depot has not been ruled out.

In the meantime, the Postal Service has asked Congress to allow the end of Saturday deliveries.