Danedri Thompson
[email protected]
Snow, rain, heat or gloom of night doesn’t stop postal couriers from their appointed rounds, but a proposal to limit mail deliveries to five days a week could halt the mail on Saturdays.
U.S. Post Office officials recommended the changes earlier this week warning that as of Sept. 30, the postal service will not be able to make a federally-mandated $5.5 billion payment for its future retirees’ health care. The proposal would also allow a one-time 5.6 percent postal rate increase.
Despite the national chatter about the post office’s solvency, Wayne Sourk, Gardner postmaster, said nothing changed at the mail center on 183rd Street.
“It’s business as usual,” Sourk said. “The mail comes in, and we deliver it.”
How much longer they’ll deliver on Saturday remains to be seen, but under the proposal, the post office retail center would remain open six days each week.
“Saturday is not a very busy time at the post office,” Sourk said.
The rest of the week isn’t as busy as it once was. Richard Watkins, spokesman for the Kansas City based Mid-America Post Office District, said total mail volume is down 20 percent. First rate mail volume is down 25 percent since 2007 and down more than 50 percent from 2001.
First class mail is single-piece stamped mail — primarily cards and letters — that must be marked, sorted and dispatched to local, regional or other parts of the country.
“As our customers continue to mail fewer letters and cards, the post office is simply responding,” Watkins said. “You have to. To do otherwise would be irresponsible on our side.”
But, Watkins said, in order to make the proposed changes, it requires an act of Congress. Since 1983, federal law has required that mail be delivered six days per week.
Halting Saturday deliveries is critical to maintaining universal service to all communities in the future, Watkins explained.
“Universal service is threatened if we don’t live within our means,” Watkins said.
In the meantime, Watkins said if Congress approves the recommendations from the Post Office General, there will still be an option available for people who want mail on Saturdays.
The retail portion of the post office, which boasts a network of 32,000 storefronts — more than Walmart, McDonald’s and Starbucks combined — would continue to offer Saturday hours.
Those leasing post office boxes could make a trip to the local retail center to pick up their mail on Saturdays.
“Customers who need or just want Saturday delivery have the option of renting a P.O. box so they can continue getting Saturday mail,” Watkins said.