Washburn Post Office may reduce hours

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

USPS reducing hours in rural communities to save money

According to the United States Postal Service, the Washburn Post Office will face closing or a reduction of hours in the near future.

The USPS implemented the Post Office Structure Plan, or POST Plan, in May 2012. Before the plan was announced, the USPS announced an idea that would lead to the closing of thousands of rural post offices to save money. The Washburn post office was on the list.

Now, with POST Plan, the USPS plans to save $500 million in costs, also hoping to maintain 13,000 low foot-traffic post offices in rural communities, according to the USPS 2012 Annual Report to Congress.

Instead of closing rural post offices, the USPS is now conducting community surveys and meetings to determine resident preferences regarding service hours at the local post office.

The city of Washburn will have its meeting, which is open to the public, on July 8 at 6 p.m. at the post office. The goal of the meeting is to determine a consensus for new hours of operation.

"I think it's important for us to be there to represent the city," said Mary Roller, Washburn alderwoman. "If we lose our post office, we'll lose a lot."

Missouri USPS Spokesperson Richard Watkins said the majority of post offices reducing their hours are in rural areas because they don't get much traffic.

"It's important that the postal service cannot only maintain its presence in thousands of mostly rural communities nationwide, but that we can also look at saving some significant money going forward," he said.

The city of Washburn will have four options during the meeting. They can either keep the offices opened with reduced hours, close the offices but keep the mail routes, close the offices but use an alternative retail spot known as a Village Post Office or close the office and use another post office in a surrounding area.

A similar situation is happening in surrounding areas, like Pierce City. The public meeting at the Pierce City Post Office will be held July 8 at 6 p.m. If 60 percent of the public votes to close the location, the office will shut down and the community will have to manage their mail from another town, like Monett.

USPS Spokesperson Stacy St. John says there are no plans right now to reduce or close post offices in Cassville, Exeter or Shell Knob.

"What we want people to understand is that we are not trying to discontinue post offices," she said. "What we're doing is reducing hours to maximize workload. It's simply a financial decision."

On Feb. 6, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill's proposal to increase protections for rural post offices was approved.

Now, the USPS can only close the Washburn post office if seniors and people with disabilities would receive the same or substantially similar services, if Washburn has access to wired broadband Internet service, if the nearest post office is no more than 10 miles driving distance and if the community will not suffer substantial economic harm as a result of the closure.

If the office reduces its hours or closes, Washburn City Clerk Julie Grillone says she believes that it will be a nuisance for the community.

"This will be an inconvenience for my office to work around," she said. "And I think it will annoy the residents who have come to rely upon the current hours."

Washburn City Council members said they will be attending the meeting as a part of the representation for the city, but Mayor John Teideman said they will not discuss any government business while there.

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