Columbia Post Office plans route, staffing changes

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 | 4:45 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA – With a sharp drop in volume and profits slipping, the U.S. Postal Service is scrambling to find ways to maintain the same quality of service in the current economic climate.  

According to the Postal Service’s comprehensive statement for 2008, the volume of mail nationwide fell 9.5 billion pieces last year and revenue was $3.3 billion less than projected. The Columbia Post Office has not been immune.

The Columbia Post Office plans to make several changes to operations and staffing, including some delivery route adjustments. As a result, customers in the Columbia area may end up with a new mail carrier or receive their mail at a different time of day.

“We are moving quickly to adjust carrier routes to respond to the current state of the economy,” Columbia Postmaster Jackie Cook said. “Our goal is to keep mail affordable and to provide excellent service to our customers.”

Some residents, however, are unsure of getting to know a new mail carrier.

“I live right around here, and I like my mail carrier, and I don’t want him to change,” said Nick Pretnar, a barista at Lakota Coffee Company. Co-worker Rachael Trinklein, who is on a first-name basis with her mail carrier, was more understanding about the possible changes.

Valerie Hughes, spokeswoman for the Gateway District in St. Louis, said the Columbia Post Office in February will begin reviewing rural routes and adjust those routes that currently do not fill a mail carrier's eight-hour workday. Once changes have been made to rural routes, she said, city routes will be reviewed and possibly adjusted.

Columbia’s routes were reviewed in August 2008 as part of a regularly scheduled review process, but because of the drop in mail volume, some routes still can be completed in less time than an eight-hour workday. City routes are being reviewed again in the coming months as part of an agreement with the National Association of Letter Carriers to expedite these route adjustments to ensure that all full-time mail carriers receive eight-hour workdays, Hughes said.

This review process will take several months, Hughes said. During the interim period, carriers of shorter routes have been called upon to assist carriers of longer routes.

"Once the consolidations are complete, the carrier force will shrink due to unfilled positions," Hughes said.

Nationwide, the U.S. Postal Service has offered voluntary early retirement to its employees. To cut costs even further, the Postal Service is limiting hiring to fill vacated positions.

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