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Two post office meetings were held last week in Marion County and customers in both places expressed their displeasure with the decision to cut the hours at the Loretto and Raywick branches.
Sixty-four people attended the 5 p.m. meeting Oct. 30 in Raywick, and around 20 people attended the 1 p.m. meeting in Loretto. Rosemary Miller, a US Postal Service manager of operations, thanked the attendees at both meetings for coming up to show their support for the postal service.
"This shows us that you care about the United States Postal Service," Miller said at the Raywick meeting.
At this time, retail services at Loretto and Raywick are open for eight hours per day. Retail services will be cut to four hours per day at both locations, Miller told the crowds.
Postal officials have not said when the new hours will be implemented, but it will likely be some time after the new year. Miller said no changes will be implemented before the Christmas season.
Miller added that the Lebanon Post Office will become the administrative post office for the Loretto and Raywick branches. She also said that all the post office branches will be re-evaluated in 2013 and 2014, and that could lead to further changes to retail service hours.
"We're begging you to continue to use the postal service," Miller said at the Loretto meeting. "If you don't, then it could be knocked down to two hours. If we show a heavier workload, we could raise it to six."
Miller said when she first started working for the post office in the 1970s, it was growing. Now, it is going in the other direction. Post office retail sales nationwide have decreased by 27 percent since 2005, and those retail sales provide all the funding for the post office.
Miller said she wants the postal service to still be around when she's 80.
"I will fight for it 'til the end," she said at the Loretto meeting.
Miller said the turnout for the meeting at Raywick City Hall was the largest for any meeting she's had so far.
As in other places, the Raywick postal customers were there to show their support for their branch, but they also had concerns about the specific proposed retail hours.
Miller reported that 217 people responded to the 523 surveys that were mailed out, and 92 percent of those respondents preferred realignment of hours for the Raywick branch. The proposed retail hours for the Raywick Post Office are 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 to 11:45 a.m. Saturday.
Several Raywick residents expressed their disappointment about the reduced hours and about the proposed afternoon hours for retail service. Many people said they would prefer morning hours and that they noted that on the survey.
Chris Goode, the officer in charge in Raywick, agreed that she is busier in the morning, and she expressed concern that her revenue would decline if she was only open in the afternoon.
Phyllis Troutman expressed a similar concern. She said she works in Lebanon, but usually visits the Raywick Post Office in the mornings. Like Goode, Troutman thought the afternoon hours would have a negative impact on the revenue at the Raywick branch.
Miller said they couldn't make any changes now, but the postal service may look at changing to morning hours in the future.
Attorney Elmer George questioned why the post office needed to reduce hours at all. He asked if the reduced hours was a first step toward later closing the rural branches.
Miller said the hours for each branch was determined by the usage at that branch. That included retail sales at that location and mail coming into that branch.
Eddie Jesse, the Mudfordville postmaster, added one of the issues affecting the postal service is a Congressional requirement that the USPS prefunds its health care benefits for retirees. He said this has affected around $5.5 billion of the postal service's operating budget, but postal officials are hoping that after the election, the new Congress will change that requirement.
George questioned if the postal service would really save much by cutting the Raywick branch by 20 hours per week.
"You're not saving enough to deprive these people of that service," he said.
Jesse responded that the reduction of hours was a top-down initiative. He added that this was an alternative to last year's plan, which called for closing several rural branches.
Don Blanford asked several questions related to the revenue at the Raywick Post Office.
Miller said the Raywick branch lost $122,000 last year. She also noted that expenses for the salary for a rural carrier would be moved to the Lebanon Post Office. Both that move and the reduced hours would reduce the expenses to operate the Raywick branch, she said.
"We might still lose money," Miller said, "but we're still going to provide a service."
The new proposed hours for the Loretto branch are from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
Miller said that the postal service sent 1,220 surveys to Loretto customers and 287 of those surveys were returned. The results showed that 88 percent of Loretto customers preferred changing the hours of the post office to either a delivery service option, creating a Village Post Office, or moving service to a nearby post office.
In response to a question, Miller explained that if the hours of operation are not working for the community they should share that with the officer in charge at their branch, and they will share that information with her.
The postal service has not yet scheduled its meetings about the Bradfordsville and St. Mary post offices.