Jeff Klamut, U.S. Postal Service operations manager, held the 5 p.m. meeting at the Brush Valley Fire Hall to inform the community and answer questions about coming changes to the post office.
The USPS is experiencing financial challenges, he said, and has lost up to $4 billion in transactions, so over the past five years they have been looking for ways to cut costs.
A few months ago, residents and post office users received a survey from the USPS explaining they had reviewed the Brush Valley Post Office under the POST Plan, a campaign to be more cost-effective while maintaining community post offices, and the results showed that cuts needed to be made.
The surveys asked the constituents to choose which of the following options they thought was best: realigning the hours of the post office, opening a village post office, using a nearby post office or having delivery options.
Of the 101 surveys distributed, 66 were returned. Eighty-five percent of those who voted chose realigning the hours, 6 percent voted for having delivery options, 3 percent said they would use a nearby post office and 6 percent did not make a selection. There were no votes for a village post office, a third-party-operated office typically located inside a local business.
Based on these results, the USPS has begun making plans to implement the POST Plan in Brush Valley by readjusting the weekly window hours at the post office.
“It’s not going to make everyone happy, but we need to downsize and be cost-effective,” Klamut said.
The Brush Valley Post Office, located at 5515 Route 56 East, is currently open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The POST Plan will result in the window hours most likely being shortened to four hours a day; however, residents will still be able to access their mailboxes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday window and lobby hours will remain the same, 9 to 11:45 a.m.
The new weekly window hours will likely be 8 a.m. to noon, Klamut said, but nothing is final yet.
A few people mentioned that these possible new hours are not ideal for the “working community” in Brush Valley, because most people are at work during these times.
Klamut explained that with the Brush Valley Post Office being in close proximity to three other offices — Lucernemines, Homer City and Dilltown — the plan is to stagger hours among these four to make postal services available throughout the day in different locations in the area.
A handful of the two dozen people attending the meeting expressed concern for the POST Plan and the changes.
“I see this as the end of the Postal Service,” said Brush Valley resident Ned Wert. “It is a desperate plan to save the post office, but it doesn’t.”
Wert asserted that the plan will inevitably doom the post office.
When asked by several people, Klamut was unable to give local statistics about the annual revenue of the Brush Valley Post Office, making residents skeptical.
“If we are on the chopping block, we should be provided with that statistical information,” said Robin Brilhart, a Brush Valley resident.
Without these statistics, residents were not convinced that sales dropped drastically enough to result in realigned hours.
One Brush Valley resident estimated that she and her husband spent close to $16,000 at the post office last year.
“We go in twice a day,” Ruth Weaver explained. “Once in the morning for our mail, and once in the afternoon to drop off packages.”
Many attendees, like Weaver, vowed their patronage to the post office, stating that they do not see how the finances could be that bad, and regretting that the survey did not give them an option to keep the post office as is.
Klamut apologized for not being able to provide those financial numbers, and continued to ensure that the POST Plan was mutually beneficial to the USPS and the Brush Valley community. While not everything is etched in stone, Klamut said it is “not an option to keep it as is.”
Using Wednesday night’s feedback, the USPS will work to figure out the best solution for the new window hours of the Brush Valley Post Office. According to Klamut, residents are not likely to see these changes until the start of 2015.