State post offices face hour reductions

The United States Postal Service recently announced its plans to reduce the service hours of many smaller Connecticut post offices.
The United States Postal Service recently announced its plans to reduce the service hours of many smaller Connecticut post offices. Photo by Sari Levy.

Connecticut residents may not need to worry about rain, snow, sleet or hail disrupting their mail service, but budget cuts could soon affect their post office hours.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) plans to reduce the operating hours of 60 small Connecticut post offices as part of the “POStPlan” (Post Office Structure Plan), an effort to save a projected $500 million annually through similar cuts to 13,000 post offices nationwide. But post offices in New Haven, including Yale Station, will not be affected by the changes.

Christine Dugas, a spokeswoman for USPS, said the decision to cut parcel service hours was the result of a new post office strategy to keep rural and small post offices open while accepting the realities of a smaller budget. While the USPS had considered closing post offices outright, customer feedback suggested the agency do otherwise.

“People turned out to be very passionate about their post offices and wanted to keep them open even at reduced hours,” Dugas said.

The USPS conducted workload studies at each office to determine the number of hours it needs to be open. Post offices under consideration will experience parcel-service-counter hour reductions from eight hours to as few as two. Residents with post office boxes will still be able to access their boxes at regular times, Dugas said, and only parcel window hours are subject to change.

The reductions are accompanied by news that the struggling USPS reached its $15 billion borrowing limit for the first time in September. An independent government agency, the USPS will become reliant solely on revenue it raises itself to sustain operations.

In deciding the new hours, the USPS is surveying customers in affected ZIP codes. Respondents will be asked if they would prefer to close the office, change the hours of operation or switch to a village post office system, in which the post office will sign a contract with a private business that will host post office boxes and sell popular postal products.

After the results are compiled, town meetings will be held at each post office to discuss what action will take place.

“All opinions [will be] taken into consideration when deciding what changes to make,” Dugas said.

Meetings at the Cobalt and Hadlyme branches have already taken place, with Grosvenor Dale, Quinebaug and Thompson slated for next week.

But Shivani Bhatt ’13 said that the reduction of parcel window hours is the most inconvenient for post office patrons.

“I think it will present many more challenges for people who rely on the post office, like those involved with small businesses,” Andrew Leu ’13 said. “It will make scheduling a lot more difficult.”

The official changes in hours will not be complete until 2014.

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