SWISHER, Iowa – A United States Postal Service plan to save money by cutting hours at rural post offices is coming closer to completion. And in the first two full weeks of July, that will mean public hearings with postal officials in 70 Iowa communities to talk about service cutbacks.
Postal customers in many smaller communities received mailed surveys from the USPS in recent weeks. The choices were accept a cut in hours that post offices were open in each community, close the post office itself or open a postal “substation” inside a private business in the community.
Stacy St. John, communications programs specialist for the postal region including Iowa, said not surprisingly the vast majority of those responding to the survey picked the first choice — a cut in hours open.
When the USPS launched the cost cutting POST plan in 2012, closing the only post office in a small community like Swisher in Johnson County was one of the extreme options. But the outcry nationwide convinced postal leaders to try to save money by cutting more hours instead.
In Swisher, the proposed changed wouldn’t amount to much. It would reduce the time the post office there is open each weekday from 7.25 hours to six. The office would also open for two hours Saturday morning. Other communities might see a more significant cut depending on the level of business.
Chris Taylor, Swisher mayor, said considering the alternative that kind of reduction isn’t so bad.
“Realistically, we know where the post office wants to go, what options they want to choose. And I hope people are OK with that,” Taylor said.
One customer at the Swisher post office, Harlan Belden, agreed customers could live with a cut in hours much more easily than losing a community post office.
“I don’t see anything wrong with six hours,” Belden said adding “It’s a change but I think people will adapt to it, I really do.”
The public meeting with postal officials for Swisher is set for 5 p.m. on July 7th at the post office. Other communities in Iowa have public meetings set from July 5th through the 18th.
St. John said some who’ve attended the public meetings have argued against any service cuts at all. St. John said with the ongoing financial difficulties for the postal service that isn’t possible. But what may be possible is staggering hours to get more benefit out of the time the small post offices are open.
“We can partner with neighboring towns so if one office wants to be open in the morning, the other could be in the afternoon. It’s a good opportunity to listen to the communities,” she said.
The USPS is almost finished with the process of public hearings and announcing the cutback in hours at smaller community post offices. The final meetings take place in August. A total of 134 post offices in Iowa will go through the process of having service hours adjusted.