Postal problems

Changes are coming to mail delivery in rural Illinois

There are two ways to make a budget — spend less or earn more. Unfortunately for the Postal Service “earn more” is going by the way of e-mail, electronic bill pay, online advertising, texting and instant messaging. According to Great Lakes Communications Manager Victor Dubina, the Postal Service processed and delivered 213 billion pieces of mail in 2006. In 2011 this total fell to 168 billion.

“And the trends triggering these declines will only continue,” said Dubina who is based in Bloomingdale, Ill., west of Chicago. “Add to the decrease in mail volume the fact we add an average of about 2,300 delivery points to our network every day and you have the perfect storm. We’re delivering less mail to more addresses.”

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

“The Postal Service ended fiscal year 2012 (October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012) with a net loss of $15.9 billion, compared to a net loss of $5.1 billion for the same period last year,” he said.

So what does this mean to rural customers?

One of the proposals the Postal Service has on the table to help its cash-strapped business is five-day delivery. Saturday is thought to be the best day to eliminate carrier delivery because of its lower delivery volume and the fact most businesses and households surveyed in a national Gallup Poll indicated Saturday would be the least disruptive day to eliminate mail delivery.

Although the Postal Service has operated as an independent business since 1972, moving to five-day delivery is dependent on Congressional approval. According to Dubina, the Postal Service is optimistic that Congress will continue to work to develop comprehensive Postal Reform legislation to provide the Postal Service with the delivery flexibility needed to implement five-day delivery.

The good news is although there would be five-day delivery, Post Offices would remain open six days a week. Rural customers also have the advantage of rural letter carriers. They are considered a Post Office on wheels providing nearly every service customers can get at a Post Office from stamps to purchasing money orders.

A plan to keep rural Post Offices open

The Postal Service also is moving forward with a plan to keep rural Post Offices across the nation open by revising operating hours based on customer use. Known as Post Plan, the process is a multi-phased approach over the next two years to be completed in September, 2014. Affected customers will receive surveys and be invited to meetings to discuss their options prior to being notified when their Post Office hours will change.

Nationwide 4,336 Post Offices will be reduced to six hours a day; 6,870 Post Offices to four hours a day; and 1,975 Post Offices to two hours a day. Projected annual savings, once the plan is implemented in the fall of 2014, is $.5 billion.

In Illinois there are 679 small Post Offices on the Post Plan list, however this is a preliminary list that requires additional review, analysis and verification, and is subject to change. This number reflects the fact Illinois is the fifth most populous state in America and has a proportionate number of Post Offices to serve customers. In total, there are about 1,350 Post Offices and branches in Illinois.

“This will preserve rural Post Offices while being a part of the framework to save the Postal Service money. This is all part of the plan to return the organization to financial stability,” Dubina added. Access to the retail lobby and to PO Boxes will remain unchanged, and the town’s ZIP Code and community identity will be retained.

Village Post Office option

The Postal Service also continues to pursue establishing Village Post Offices (VPO) in the communities affected by these changes. VPOs are located within existing businesses — convenience stores and other local establishments — and are managed by the proprietors. By being located inside conventional businesses and other places residents already frequent, VPOs offer Postal Service customers time-saving accessibility, and in most cases, longer hours than regular Post Offices. VPOs offer a range of postal products and services — the ones most used by customers — including PO Boxes and stamp sales.

In addition to maintaining a retail network of more than 31,000 Post Offices, the Postal Service also provides online access to postal products and services through and more than 70,000 alternate access locations such as Wal-Mart, Staples, Office Depot, Walgreens, Sam’s Club and Costco.

“Meeting the needs of postal customers is, and will always be, a top priority. We continue to balance that by better aligning service options with customer demands and reducing the cost to serve,” said Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe. “With that said, we’ve listened to our customers in rural America and we’ve heard them loud and clear — they want to keep their Post Office open.”

Complete list of Post Plan Post Offices