Sunday, September 21, 2014

Saturday mail delivery ending

By CRYSTAL HERBER, Herald Staff Writer | 2/6/2013

It’s business as usual at Ottawa’s post office. At least for now.

The U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday it would stop delivering letters and other mail on Saturdays, a move the financially struggling agency said would save about $2 billion annually as it looks for ways to cut costs. An official at the Ottawa post office, 401 S. Hickory St., said she has been told little about the five-day delivery switch set for August.

It’s business as usual at Ottawa’s post office. At least for now.

The U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday it would stop delivering letters and other mail on Saturdays, a move the financially struggling agency said would save about $2 billion annually as it looks for ways to cut costs. An official at the Ottawa post office, 401 S. Hickory St., said she has been told little about the five-day delivery switch set for August.

“We don’t know anything other than what’s been heard on the news,” Kelley Kilgore, Ottawa postmaster, said Wednesday, adding no official memo about the switch had been sent to the Ottawa office.

The plan would include the continued six-day delivery of packages, and local post offices are not likely to change their Saturday hours. Ottawa’s post office is open 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturdays, a schedule Kilgore said she doesn’t think will change.

“Nothing’s changed for us, so far,” Kilgore said.

Americans’ increasing use of electronic communication, such as email and social networking, has dramatically decreased the volume of first-class mail nationwide, the Postal Service said in a statement. In the past fiscal year, the service lost nearly $16 billion. Dropping a first-class delivery day reportedly would save the cash-strapped agency about $2 billion a year.

“The Postal Service is advancing an important new approach to delivery that reflects the strong growth of our package business and responds to the financial realities resulting from America’s changing mailing habits,” Patrick Donahoe, U.S. Postmaster General, said in a release. “We developed this approach by working with our customers to understand their delivery needs and by identifying creative ways to generate significant cost savings.”

Postal officials have said for years the agency needed to cut back on delivery days, as well as close under-used facilities and reduce its workforce. But officials have said they needed permission from Congress to make the changes. It was not immediately clear whether congressional approval was needed to drop Saturday mail delivery.

The Postal Service is urging Congress to develop postal reform legislation to allow greater flexibility to control costs and generate new revenue, according to a release. The latest legislation to affect the Postal Service was in 2006 when Congress required it to pay about $5.5 billion a year into a future retiree health benefit fund. Already financially unstable, the agency defaulted on two payments in 2012 for the first time in its history — after reaching its borrowing limit from the U.S. Treasury Department.

Ending Saturday delivery is more likely to be an emergency stopgap measure than an actual long-term solution, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said.

“The U.S. Postal Service’s announcement [Wednesday] makes it clear that it’s past time for Congress to act to put the USPS on a path toward financial stability,” Moran said in a statement released Wednesday. “Eliminating Saturday mail delivery is not a solution that will solve their financial crisis as a whole. After numerous meetings with the postmaster general, I know smart reforms are needed to make certain the Postal Service can compete in a digital world, increase revenue and not become a taxpayer liability.”

In 2012, Moran voted in favor of the 21st Century Postal Service Act, which, according to Moran’s statement, would have provided a number of measures to put the Postal Service on a path to sustainability. The bill passed in the Senate, but it failed to reach the president before the 112th Congress concluded in early January.

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

Meanwhile, at Ottawa’s post office, business continued to be busy Wednesday. During a 10-minute span Wednesday morning, about 15 people came through the office’s doors to do business, carrying letters, large envelopes and packages to be shipped around the country. One of those customers, David Bruner, said he didn’t think the change would have too much effect on his daily life.

“It don’t bother me at all,” Bruner, Ottawa, said, adding the switch seemed an inevitable occurrence.

His chief concern was the 1-cent increase in stamp prices to 45 cents, which the Postal Service announced last week. Bruner said he would have rather seen the price go up 5 cents at once and then stay the same for a while.

With a family member who works at the post office, Donna Krueger, Ottawa, said she sees the potential for decreased delivery days. Krueger has a post office box, which will continue to have mail delivered to it on Saturday, based on the Postal Service’s plan.

Krueger said the plan wouldn’t affect her.

“We don’t go in on Saturday anyway,” she said.

Likewise, Ann Hanson, Ottawa, who also has a post office box, said she did not expect the change to directly affect her mailing habits. She agreed it was a wise move because it will save money. Hanson said she has decreased the amount of first-class mail she sends out — mirroring millions of other Americans, according to Postal Service figures.

The Herald, which has relied on the post office to deliver its editions since 2009, is contemplating plans to adjust to the proposed August switch. Subscribers will be notified before any change in delivery schedules or publication days, Jeanny Sharp, Herald editor and publisher, said.

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