East Spencer, Gold Hill, Misenheimer among post office branches getting reduced hours

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 11, 2012

By Shavonne Potts
Three area post offices are among hundreds across the state that could see their operating hours shortened as part of a cost-cutting plan proposed by the U.S. Postal Service.
The Postal Service put East Spencer, Gold Hill and Misenheimer on a list of what it calls 234 rural post offices in North Carolina that would be subject to the reduced weekday hours.
Last year, the federal agency announced it was studying nearly 3,700 post offices for possible closure. After getting feedback from customers, the service decided to instead reduce hours at many.
The Postal Service says it must cut costs. The agency has been losing money for a long time as people switch to the Internet to communicate and pay bills. On Thursday, it reported a $3.2 billion loss for the quarter.
Projecting a $14.1 billion loss by the end of this year, the Postal Service — which is a government agency but receives no tax dollars for its operations — is seeking new leeway from Congress to eliminate Saturday mail delivery and reduce health and other labor costs.
“We are aggressively pursuing new revenue streams and reducing costs within our control,” said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. “These actions are not enough to return the Postal Service to profitability.”
The Senate last month passed a bill that would give the agency an $11 billion cash infusion and reduce the health payments while delaying a move to five-day delivery for two years; the House remains stalled over a separate bill allowing for far-reaching cuts.
As part of the proposal announced this week, the East Spencer and Gold Hill post offices would go from eight hours to six hours a day, while Misenheimer would have its daily operating hours cut to four.
The Postal Service says the reduced retail window hours would reflect actual customer use at the various post offices, and access to the retail lobby and to PO boxes would remain unchanged.
The changes would be phased in over two years and would be completed by September 2014, the Postal Service said in a prepared statement. The agency estimates reducing hours would save $500 million a year.
The Postal Service has implemented a voluntary moratorium on all postal facility closings or changes to operating hours through Tuesday.
U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Monica Robbs said Friday it’s unclear what will happen after that date, but it depends on Congress.
“We are waiting for them and expect we will have to make some decisions if no legislation has happened by that time,” Robbs said.
The Postal Service considers reducing operating hours a fair resolution, she said.
“We are looking at ways to keep them open and continue to serve the community and lower our financial responsibility in maintaining those buildings,” Robbs said.
She said the determination for whether an office will face a reduction in hours depends on a number of factors including the size of the post office, customer traffic and whether there are deliveries out of that office.
Sandra Smith, who stopped by the East Spencer Post Office Friday, hadn’t heard about the possible cut in hours.
“It’s bad for the working people who want to buy stamps and it’s closed,” she said.
Smith said if the East Spencer hours are reduced and she needs something, she’ll have to go to Salisbury.
After a review of the proposed changes by the Postal Regulatory Commission, the Postal Service plans to conduct community meetings to gather feedback from customers who live in affected areas.
Communities will be notified by mail of the date, time and location of the meetings.
In 2010, the Postal Service closed the downtown Salisbury branch as it consolidated hundreds of post offices around the country to save money.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.