BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — The U.S. Postal Service is nearing the end of a two-year process to determine a reduction of retail-service hours at 246 rural post office locations throughout Alabama.
As part of the plan that will conclude in September, the agency has scheduled community meetings from June 26 through July 16 concerning the final 45 rural post office locations, which span all parts of the state, that are under consideration for reductions.
The meetings will focus on proposed retail-hour reductions at the sites and allow input from the public on preferred hours of operation. Postal officials will review comments before determining the reduced hours at each site.
The changes do not affect delivery or access to post office boxes. They only affect customer-service window hours at the sites.
Alabama Media Group has created a map that shows all post offices in the state affected by the plan. Most of them have reduced hours already decided — the ones shown in red.
The yellow dots represent locations with community meetings scheduled. Green dots represent sites where operations have been suspended. There’s one purple dot representing the Empire Post Office where a determination about the location’s status was unknown.
Already, the Postal Service has reduced hours at 195 locations throughout Alabama since late 2012. The cuts come under the agency’s nationwide cost-savings plan as it struggles with billions in annual operating losses.
In Alabama, five locations have suspended operations under the plan: Booth, Jefferson, Kellerman, Mount Olive and Sunflower. Although they are not offering service, the five sites have not been labeled as permanently closed by the Postal Service.
While complaints have surfaced about the reduced hours, the Postal Service says it’s better than the alternative.
“Two years ago it was a different story. We were leaning more toward closing, but we were able to come up with the POStPLAN after listening to customers,” said Debra Fetterly, Postal Service spokeswoman for the Alabama district.
The POStPLAN is the Post Office Structure Plan that resulted following the Postal Service’s announcement in July 2011 that 3,700 post office locations were under consideration for closure. Ultimately, 13,000 sites nationwide were potentially on the chopping block, Fetterly said.
“These post offices that have reduced hours, originally a couple of years ago they were slated for possible closure,” she said. “The reason we’re staying open is community members at previous meetings were upset about possible closure.”
Fetterly said the public should attend the upcoming meetings to provide input on the decision-making process.
“We’re a business. The Postal Service is a business and like any other business we have to examine our operation and do the best that we can. Sometimes that requires cost-cutting measures without sacrificing service,” she said.