Newell post office cuts hours, others may follow

NEWELL – Sending mail in Newell won’t be quite as convenient now that the post office’s daily retail hours have been cut in half.

Previously open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays, the post office’s window hours are now 8 a.m. to noon on weekdays. Saturday hours – 9 a.m. to noon – remain the same.

Lobby hours at the Newell post office, 202 Washington St., are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. The changes became effective about a week ago.

The reduced hours are part of a plan announced by the U.S. Postal Service in May to cut costs without actually closing small, rural post offices.

“As things stand right now, the postal service is losing about $25 million per day. That’s an untenable position,” said David Van Allen, regional spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service.

In 2011, the postal service announced plans to close 3,700 rural post offices as a way to cut costs and end billion-dollar deficits. But the backlash from consumers caused the postal service to rethink its strategy.

“The feedback we got was 54 percent said they really wanted to keep their post office open,” Van Allen said.

That led the postal service to come up with a new plan, one that will reduce the window hours at more than 13,000 small post offices to match actual customer use, Van Allen said. The Post Plan seeks to accomplish the same cost savings of office closings but by spreading the impact across a larger number of communities.

Van Allen said overall customer foot traffic in post offices has declined by 27 percent since 2006, while first-class mail volume has declined by 50 percent since 2006.

“Between the significant decline in first-class mail – what we call the electronic diversion – and the decreased traffic in post offices, we need to make adjustments,” he said.

Those adjustments include reducing retail window service hours to match customer need, providing delivery service through rural carriers or highway contract routes, establishing alternate postal providers such as Wal-Mart and merging nearby post offices with each other.

Before any changes are made, residents in certain affected ZIP codes are given the opportunity to fill out a survey and attend a community meeting. Such meetings were held in Newell and New Manchester in November.

The New Manchester post office, 290 High St., also has been targeted for a reduction in hours – from eight hours a day to six hours a day – but those changes have not yet been implemented.

Post offices in Chester and New Cumberland are not scheduled for any reduction in hours.