The cash-strapped US Postal Service would like to see total curbside mail delivery implemented in the future and some rural post offices face reduced window hours.
Salem Post Office is no exception.
The goal is to eventually be able to deliver mail to all postal customers from a vehicle, saving time and making the USPS run more efficiently.
Compliance with the curbside delivery is voluntary, according to an informational letter that will be going to local postal customers.
Salem’s new Acting Postmaster Chris Bader in the coming months plans to begin sending letters to postal customers and making house calls to pitch the curbside delivery plan. Bader recently was transferred here from the Park Hills Post Office.
No timeframe is being announced to have the curbside delivery plan fully implemented, but such a plan is expected to be the norm everywhere within five years, according to USPS officials.
Bader isn’t allowed by the USPS to do a sit-down interview with the media. The Salem News was referred to a Mid-America District’s Public Relations representative Richard Watkins in Kansas City.
According to Bader’s letter to postal customers, this plan is being implemented here and throughout the Mid-America District, to help deal with the financial recovery and stability of the USPS.
The USPS recently reported a record $15.9 billion annual loss.
Postal customers are being asked for support in this service improvement initiative, but transition to the curbside delivery is strictly voluntary and will not impact a customer’s ability to receive mail, according to the letter.
While the curbside delivery plan is said to be directed more to residential customers, businesses also will be impacted.
Businesses will be asked to install an exterior box so that Saturday and after-hour deliveries can be done to eliminate mail having to be returned and held at the post office for later delivery.
Postal customers who are willing to support the curbside service, are being asked to sign and return the letter in a self-addressed postage-paid envelope provided by the USPS.
The Postal Service is moving forward with a plan to keep Post Offices across the country open by realigning retail window hours based on customer use.
The process to implement the plan, known as Post Plan, is being conducted in a multi-phased approach over two years. Once fully implemented in September of 2014, it will save the USPS about $500 million a year.
In September, each of the Postal Service's 67 districts began the two-year nationwide process of notifying affected communities of the changed hours of operations of local Post Offices and other options available to them.
Area post offices targeted for a reduction in retail service hours are Bixby, Boss, Bunker, Black, Cherryville, Jadwin, Lake Spring and Reynolds, among 13,000 Post Offices nationwide.
Retail service hours at Bunker will be reduced from eight to six hours. Boss, Bixby and Cherryville would go from eight to four hours and Black, Jadwin, Lake Spring and Reynolds would go from four to two hours.
No hour change implementation dates have been announced for Bixby, Boss, Bunker, Jadwin or Reynolds Post Offices.
Watkins said retail hour changes are scheduled to be implemented Jan. 26 at the Lake Spring Post Office and Feb. 9 at Black and Cherryville Post Offices.
“The Post Plan is a response to customer opinion gleaned from thousands of community meetings held across the country in 2011,” Watkins said. “Customers prefer keeping small, rural post offices open, with shorter hours based on workload, instead of closing them.”
Watkins said that in 2012, nearly 40 percent of total postal retail revenue came from sources such as convenience stores, pharmacies, bank ATMs and usps.com, rather than traditional brick-and-mortar post offices.
“Clearly customers are changing the way they buy stamps and other basic postal services,” Watkins said.
Watkins said all other Post Plan-related changes won’t be effective until at least mid-January.
Residents in targeted communities will receive a survey requesting a preference for one of four options available regarding the future status of their Post Office and a letter notifying them of the date, time and location of a community meeting. At the meeting, local postal management will share the results of the survey and answer questions. The first community meetings were held in October in larger cities. The majority of the districts will be conducting several meetings per week until all affected communities have been notified and community meetings have been held.
No meetings are being held during the holiday season.
Post Offices evaluated under Post Plan will remain open with realigned hours unless a community has a strong preference for one of the other options. If a community chooses realigned Post Office retail window hours, Saturday hours will not change and access to delivery receptacles will not be reduced as a result of Post Plan.
Meanwhile, to better serve customers, the Postal Service continues to pursue the establishment of Village Post Offices (VPO) in the communities affected by these changes and in other areas across the country, including communities with Post Offices. VPOs may be established in convenience stores, other local businesses, libraries, etc., and are managed by the proprietors. By being located inside established businesses and other places consumers already frequent, VPOs offer Postal Service customers time-saving convenience, and in most cases, longer hours than regular Post Offices. VPOs offer a range of popular postal products and services - the ones most used by customers - including PO Boxes, Forever stamps and Pre-paid Priority Mail Flat Rate envelopes.
Community meeting attendees will be given a customized informational handout detailing the results of the survey for that respective community, including how many residents voted for each option. All information received from the survey and comments made at the meeting will be taken into account to make the decisions regarding the status of the affected Post Offices.
Watkins said that while the USPS is not soliciting feedback on its decision to implement the Post Plan, customers can call 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777, or log onto usps.com to register feedback on USPS operations and/or policies.
He said local postmasters can answer general mailing and shipping questions, but Post Plan decisions were made on the national level.