Weatherford Democrat

February 7, 2013

Locals deliver reactions to cutback in mail service

U.S. Postal Service says it plans to halt Saturday mail service in August


Weatherford Democrat

— By BRIAN SMITH

Local reaction to the U.S. Postal Service’s announcement Wednesday that in August it will stop delivering mail on Saturdays seemed to fall along age lines.

Cindy Calhoun, of Weatherford, has had a P.O. box at the Weatherford post office for almost 15 years. She said she knew nothing about the impending cutbacks, but said she was “not surprised.”

“As long as I’ve got my P.O. box and the mail still comes there, I’m happy,” Calhoun said. “Everyone is trying to save a buck these days.”

The change involves standard mail deliveries on Saturday. The postal service said it will still make parcel mail deliveries.

David Norman, of Granbury, who was at the Santa Fe postal facility Wednesday to send a package, said he was concerned about the cutbacks.

“I don’t want to pay extra for a P.O. box just so I can get my mail six days a week,” Norman said. “I guess it’s a sign of the times.”

Weatherford College student Mike Timlin said the cuts wouldn’t affect him one bit.

“Does anyone really even mail anything anymore?” Timlin said. “I’m here to get my mom some stamps, but you can get those at any grocery store. If I need a package, I can send it UPS.”

His friend Dayna Tibbetts says she goes to the post office about once a week to “pick up something.” She says she mainly uses the post office to mail packages to her brother Stephen, who is serving in Afghanistan.

“As far as mail, though, I either communicate via e-mail or on Facebook,” Tibbetts said, while texting in the post office parking lot. “Now if you were taking away my phone, I’d be hurting.”

Weatherford post office officials referred all questions to a media representative out of Austin.

The financially struggling U.S. Postal Service said Wednesday it will stop delivering mail on Saturdays but continue to disburse packages six days a week, an apparent end-run around an unaccommodating Congress.

The service expects the Saturday mail cutback to begin the week of Aug. 5 and to save about $2 billion annually, said Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe.

“Our financial condition is urgent,” Donahoe told a press conference.

The move accentuates one of the agency’s strong points — package delivery has increased by 14 percent since 2010, officials say, while the delivery of letters and other mail has declined with the increasing use of email and other Internet services.

Under the new plan, mail would be delivered to homes and businesses only from Monday through Friday, but would still be delivered to post office boxes on Saturdays. Post offices now open on Saturdays would remain open on Saturdays.

Over the past several years, the Postal Service has advocated shifting to a five-day delivery schedule for mail and packages — and it repeatedly but unsuccessfully appealed to Congress to approve the move. Though an independent agency, the service gets no tax dollars for its day-to-day operations but is subject to congressional control.

Congress has included a ban on five-day delivery in its appropriations bill. But because the federal government is now operating under a temporary spending measure, rather than an appropriations bill, Donahoe says it’s the agency’s interpretation that it can make the change itself.

“This is not like a ‘gotcha’ or anything like that,” he said. The agency is essentially asking Congress not to reimpose the ban when the spending measure expires on March 27 and he said he would work with Congress on the issue.

The agency clearly thinks it has a majority of the American public on its side regarding the change. Postal Service market research and other research indicated that nearly 7 in 10 Americans support the switch to five-day delivery as a way for the Postal Service to reduce costs, the agency said.

“The Postal Service is advancing an important new approach to delivery that reflects the strong growth of our package business and responds to the financial realities resulting from America’s changing mailing habits,” Donahoe said. “We developed this approach by working with our customers to understand their delivery needs and by identifying creative ways to generate significant cost savings.”

But the president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, Fredric Rolando, said the end of Saturday mail delivery is “a disastrous idea that would have a profoundly negative effect on the Postal Service and on millions of customers,” particularly businesses, rural communities, the elderly, the disabled and others who depend on Saturday delivery for commerce and communication.

He said the maneuver by Donahoe to make the change “flouts the will of Congress, as expressed annually over the past 30 years in legislation that mandates six-day delivery.”

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ranking Member Tom Coburn M.D., R-Okla., said in a joint statement that they had sent a letter to leaders of the House and Senate in support of the elimination of Saturday mail.

They called it “common-sense reform.” Others agreed the Postal Service had little choice.

“If the Congress of the United States refuses to take action to save the U.S. Postal Service, then the Postal Service will have to take action on its own,” said corporate communications expert James S. O’Rourke, professor of management at the University of Notre Dame.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.