Move saves dozens of Nevada rural post offices
The U.S. Postal Service has pulled back its plan to shutter thousands of rural post offices – dozens of them in Nevada – opting instead to reduce hours and make other changes to preserve service in those areas.
USPS spokesman David Rupert said the change came because of intense opposition by rural residents and lawmakers across the nation.
In Nevada, there are small post offices in 84 small and rural communities, from Mountain City in the northeast corner to Denio on the Oregon border to Mesquite at the state’s southern tip. A number of them are in the Carson City area, as well, including Smith, Crystal Bay, Genoa, Yerington and Dayton.
Rupert said, however, that there will be reductions in service hours at 36 of Nevada’s smallest post offices. He said, for example, that the tiny office in Tuscarora, north of Elko, will go from eight hours a day to six.
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe announced the new plan on Wednesday.
“We’ve listened to our customers in rural America, and we’ve heard them loud and clear,” he said.
Under the plan, some offices would stay open with reduced hours. Other options include closing one small office but keeping a nearby office open full time or offering postal services in libraries, government offices or local stores.
Nationwide, Donahoe said, more than 13,000 rural mail facilities could see reduced hours of operation.
Rupert said that there will be some internal personnel moves, including the shifting of some full-time employees to part-time status with limited benefits. Some will be able to move to bigger offices.
“In some situations, they may lose their job,” he said.
But Rupert said that postal officials are offering some 21,000 postmasters early outs in hopes of meeting the projected $500 million-a-year savings target.
“We’re pretty confident people will understand,” he said. “Times are changing. We understand people are using the Postal Service less. They’re paying more bills on line, but people still use us. We had 160 billion pieces of mail last year.”
Rupert said the new plan is “a happy medium that still keeps these rural post offices that we are committed to serving.”
He added that in many rural areas, some of the electronic and other options for paying bills and other services aren’t available, making the postal service more important there.
“At the end of the day, we will not close rural post offices until we receive community input,” said Megan Brennan, the Postal Service’s chief operating officer. “We believe very few post offices will be closed over the next few years.”
Rupert said, however, that this plan “doesn’t solve all our problems.”
He said that the Postal Service will lose as much as $8 billion this year, which is why postal officials are pushing for congressional action to cut deliveries to five days a week, eliminating Saturdays. In addition, he said they want “reasonable changes” to the mandate requiring pre-funding of future retiree benefits that costs USPS some $5.5 billion a year.
“Those two things alone save us $7-$8 billion a year,” he said.
The announcement is the second bit of good news for Northern and rural Nevada since the original cuts were announced. The first was when postal officials backed away from the plan to close the Reno mail processing center, a move strongly opposed by numerous western Nevada businesses that rely on U.S. mail to fill orders for their companies.
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.