Area rural post offices to reduce service hours

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The Post Office Structure plan to reduce costs without eliminating service to rural customers will change weekday window hours for some rural Socorro and Catron county post offices.

Some changes started in 2012 with consolidation of mail processing at larger centers, according to U.S. Postal Service spokesman Peter Hass. All mail coming into the Socorro main post office is now handled in Albuquerque.

Beginning in 2013, the POSt plan will affect window hours for some small-volume post offices. The changes will come gradually over a two-year period to allow each postal customer opportunities to comment on the plan.

No post offices in Socorro or Catron counties will be eliminated.

“We’re not going to close any of the post offices,” said Wesley Redmond, acting regional manager of Postal Service operations.

Local post offices facing reduction in weekday window hours include those at Lemitar, Luna, Pie Town, Polvadera, San Acacia, San Antonio and La Joya. Patrons at these post offices will have both a chance to vote on service options and an opportunity to attend a public input meeting.

So far, only San Acacia, La Joya and Polvadera post offices have held the required meetings and collected mail-in surveys.

As of Jan. 26, the San Acacia post office located in Alamillo will only be open from 9 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday. Saturday window service hours will not be changed, nor will the schedule for accessing mail receptacles.

The Postal Service mailed out 51 survey cards to San Acacia postal customers, but only 14 were returned. Sixty-four percent of those returned favored reducing the weekday window service schedule.

The cards offer customers the choice of one of four options: adjusted hours at their local post office, mail delivery to cluster boxes or their own home mailbox, a “village post office” set up at a local business providing limited service (selling postage stamps and posting mail and packages) or elimination of all postal services at their location.

Jesus Acosta, owner of Acosta Equipment Company in Alamillo, said he wasn’t even aware of any proposed changes, but he is in favor of the Postal Service’s attempt to stay in the black.

“That’s fine,” he said. “What are we going to do? They’re going to do what they’re going to do. They claim they’re losing money. They got to be competitive to stay in business.”

He added he patronizes the nearby post office.

“I try to support it by buying stamps there,” he said.

Starting Jan. 12, the La Joya post office will be open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each weekday, according to the POSt plan implementation letter posted in the building. The post office will be open from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Access to mailboxes will not be affected.

The Polvadera post office customers located in Chamisal have not been notified of the schedule change yet, even though the survey cards were mailed and the public input meeting was held in November, said interim post master Flora Julian.

“Only about five people showed up for the meeting,” she said.

The Polvadera post office’s weekday window hours will be reduced from eight to two hours per day sometime this year, she said.

The other post offices on the change list have not held the required community input meetings.

“Nothing’s been posted so far about the community meetings in San Antonio or Lemitar,” said San Antonio relief Postmaster Kenny Duke.

Veguita, Aragon, Datil, Quemado, Reserve, Socorro and Magdalena post offices will see no changes in hours or services offered.

Most of the post offices on the POSt plan list are facing reduced hours, but not all.

Claunch is one of only seven New Mexico post offices that will see increased hours under the new plan even though it serves very few customers.

“Distance from another retail unit is probably the primary driver in the POSt plan,” Redmond said.

The Claunch post office is slated to increase its weekday hours from four to six. According to the POSt plan fact sheet, any post office 25 miles or more miles from another post office will now be open for six hours per day during the week plus the usual Saturday hours.

The public will have a chance to comment about the proposed schedule changes at local meetings to be held from now until March 2013. Hass said the implementation of the plan will take two years.

“The dates (when the schedule changes) are going to vary based on when the community hearings are going to be held,” he said. “They will be notified by a poster in each office in advance.”

The Postal Service expects to save over a half billion dollars per year when the plan is fully implemented in September 2014. Around 13,000 of the lowest volume post offices were examined under the plan.

For more information, Hass recommends visiting the plan website: www.usps.com/ourfuturenetwork. Click on the “Preserving Post Offices” link.

 

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