CUMBERLAND — MIDLOTHIAN — The U.S. Postal Service plans to make a final decision soon on the future of the Midlothian Post Office that will result in the branch reducing operating hours to four hours per day or closing the office completely.
A public meeting on the consolidation plan will be held at 3 p.m. Monday at the Trinity Assembly of God Church on Old Midlothian Road with postal officials expected to make a final decision on the fate of the Midlothian branch in the days following that meeting.
“They are doing away under cost efficiency. It’s being done all across the country,” said Phil Jones, president of the American Postal Workers Local 513.
Postal officials in the Baltimore District released a statement on the consolidation effort that is affecting the Midlothian office.
“The Postal Service is finalizing a plan to realign retail window hours based on customer use in more than 13,000 post offices around the country. Known as the Post Plan, the process has been conducted in a multiphased approach over two years. Initially to be completed in September 2014, the timeline has now been extended until early January 2015,” the statement said.
The Postal Service conducted a survey in the Midlothian area in recent weeks to gauge public opinion on the branch’s future. The results of the survey are expected to be released at the Monday meeting.
The four options being considered for the Midlothian Post Office are:
• Reduce weekday hours from 7.5 to four hours daily and maintain Saturday hours.
• Discontinue the office in favor of roadside mailbox delivery with retail services available through a rural carrier.
• Discontinue the office and find a suitable site in an established business to subcontract the services.
• Close the branch and move the services to a nearby postal branch.
The Postal Service has been taking many cost-cutting measures in the face of large financial loses estimated as high as $25 million per day.
The use of the Internet has contributed to reduced revenue for the U.S. Postal Service. However, a large financial strain has been the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act passed by Congress in 2006. The act requires the U.S. Postal Service to pay $5.5 billion annually into a fund to prepay retiree health care costs for 75 years into the future.
“It’s been a strain on the post office. No other government agency has to prefund retirement benefits like that. We are paying for people that aren’t even born yet,” said Jones.
Jones said that the closing of local post offices in small towns affects the fabric of life in those communities.
“It’s sad. You go anywhere and the post office is in the center of town. It’s the focal point of the community,” said Jones.
Another trend for the U.S. Postal Service has been installing services in retail outlets. Jones said more and more a pharmacy or a large retailer like Staples may be housing your community post office.
Consolidation also causes postmasters to no longer be needed to operate the scaled-back offices. Part-time employees who earn a lower wage are typically used to provide the service.
“The more people that show up at the town hall meetings the better. If people want to protest it, they need to let their federal elected officials know as well,” said Jones.
The Midlothian Post Office has also been a popular regional site for issuing and updating passports. The Midlothian office processes more than 500 passports annually.
Jones was asked what will happen to the passport service if the office closes.
“They’ll just refer them somewhere else,” said Jones.
Jones said they used to do passports in Cumberland but the staff no longer exists to handle them so they were referred to Midlothian.