USPS does about-face

April 12, 2013 10:56 am

USPS carrier Richard Taylor makes his rounds around the La Grande High School area Thursday morning. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
USPS carrier Richard Taylor makes his rounds around the La Grande High School area Thursday morning. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)

United State Postal Service announces it won’t end Saturday service after all

by DICK MASON & KATY NESBITT / The Observer 

The financially beleaguered Postal Service backpedaled on its plan to end Saturday mail delivery, conceding Wednesday that its gamble to compel congressional approval had failed.

The Postal Service stated that the “stop gap” budget Congress passed recently makes this move unnecessary.

The Postal Service had planned to end Saturday mail service the first week of August, according to Kelly Carreiro, postmaster of the La Grande U.S. Postal Service office. Carreiro said, though, the move to five-day-a-week delivery is inevitable.

“It has been postponed but it is still going to happen,” Carreiro said on Thursday.

The La Grande postmaster said the move will be made eventually because declining mail volume does not make six-day-a-week mail service financially feasible. He said Congress wants the Postal Service to operate as efficiently as possible without tax dollars.

The U.S. Postal Service announced in February that it was seriously considering a plan to trim back mail service to five days a week. Saturday service would not have been completely cut since the USPS’s plan called for packages to be delivered.

Carreiro said a Postal Service survey in 2012 indicated that about 80 percent of Americans believed cutting Saturday mail delivery would be a good way for the Postal Service to cut costs. Carreiro said he did not receive any phone calls from people objecting to the plan.

Still, the news that Saturday mail delivery will continue at least through this summer was welcomed by Union County residents including Max Lane of Cove. Lane said he supported the move to retain Saturday service because it might help keep more USPS workers employed. 

An independent agency, the service gets no tax dollars for its day-to-day operations but is subject to congressional control. It lost nearly $16 billion last year — $11.1 billion of that due to a 2006 law Congress passed forcing it to pay into future retiree health benefits, something no other agency does.

Mike Brasure, a member of the council at the Union County Senior Center, also is a strong supporter of six-day-a-week service.

“I didn’t want them to shut (Saturday delivery) down. A lot of seniors look forward to getting the mail on Saturday. Sometimes it is the only excitement they will have for the weekend,” Brasure said.

Brasure also pointed out that Saturday mail service is important because it gives letter carriers an extra day of contact with seniors who may be isolated. In many cases, they are a senior’s only link to the outside world, a link which can be life saving.

“If something is not right, a letter carrier will see it and pass this on to someone,” Brasure said.

Denny Kolb, the postmaster of the Joseph Post Office, said it didn’t seem to make a difference one way or another. 

Curtis White, a Joseph postal patron who sells guns through the Internet, said he was glad to have delivery on Saturdays because his business depends on the mail. 

White said he uses the Post Office quite a bit. 

“I like Saturday delivery because if I need those parts it’s nice to get them quickly,” he said.

Wallowa Postmaster Marilyn Seifert said she hadn’t received any feedback from her customers about the change. However, she has realized a big increase in duties now that the Lostine Post Office is only open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Seifert now oversees much of the administrative work because of Lostine’s cut in hours. Delivery to rural residents remains in place, so far.

None of Wallowa County’s post offices have window hours on Saturday, so there would have been no change in service.

The Postal Service already is executing a major restructuring throughout its retail, delivery and mail processing operations. Since 2006, it has reduced annual costs by approximately $15 billion, cut its workforce by 193,000 or 28 percent, and consolidated more than 200 mail processing locations.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.