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Grimes post office saved, but hours to be cut
Grimes residents will have a Post Office to go to, but the hours could be cut in half.
But if anyone thinks Rose Ann Ellis is happy with the outcome, think again.
"Nothing is supposed to be shut down anyway, and shutting down to four hours (a day) is a little much," Ellis said.
The U.S. Postal Service announced this week that it is scrapping plans to close 3,700 smaller and mostly rural post offices.
Plans to close 223 mail-sorting centers are still under way, the federal agency said.
Postal service officials are saying the decision is in response to so many people objecting to losing their local post offices, often viewed as a central hub in these small communities.
"When we announced those closures, what people said to us was, 'Keep our post office open,'" Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe told the Washington Post. "We have to have shorter hours, but if we can shrink the labor costs, we can keep the buildings open."
The shorter hours will affect more than a third of the country's 31,509 post offices, reducing operations at some to as few as two days a week.
The Grimes operation will likely go from eight hours a day to four, said Augustine Ruiz, a spokesman for the Sacramento region of the Postal Service. There are 100 rural offices in the region.
Ellis said Grimes has had a post office dating back to the 1800s.
She said residents in the area are scattered, and depend on the post office to conduct business and meet a variety of other needs. It has 446 post office boxes, of which 200 are rented.
With the cost of gasoline, she said, having to travel to Knights Landing or Meridian will be an expensive alternative.
When the cuts will go into effect seems to be uncertain, but will take a couple of years to complete, officials said.
Ruiz expects USPS directors to file a formal application for the reduced hours with the federal Postal Regulatory Commission by the end of the month, which will be followed by a 90-day review and comment period.
Ellis said residents were told at a recent meeting that Grimes will see the schedule change in 2014.
The postal service is facing a $14.1 billion loss this year.
Pressures from private delivery services, and particularly the Internet, have made what was once the jewel of government operations into a debt-ridden agency.
The decision comes as Congress was about to clash over two very different bills.
The Senate last month passed a bill that would stop the closures, while the House bill allowed for the closures to continue.
That has become a moot point for the time being.
The Postal Service said the new plan will go into effect over the next two years and save $500 million in labor. That is more than the $200 million the agency thought it would save by closing the 3,700 offices.
The agency also plans to offer early retirement packages to 21,000 postmasters.
If a postmaster does retire, that post office would be staffed by part-time workers who make far less than postmasters. The new structure will employ a combination of part-time career employees and hourly contract staff. Most will receive reduced benefits or none, the Washington Post reported.
The plan does not come close to filling the Postal Service's shortfall.
The Senate bill would give the agency $11 billion it overpaid into one of its pension funds, among other changes. Saturday mail delivery would remain.
The House bill would create a commission to recommend post office and processing center closings. Saturday mail delivery would end.
If the service fails to cut enough costs within two years, a commission and independent control board would implement more drastic cuts, override union contracts and order layoffs if necessary, the Washington Post reported.