HARTSBURG — Chairs squeaked and about 30 residents chattered as they waited inside the American Legion building. Some read the black and white paper spelling out the survey results for the future of their community post office.
Hartsburg is among the thousands of rural post offices that will see window hours decrease and route changes. The measures are part of a two-year process the U.S. Postal Service plans to complete by September 2014 in efforts to save the Postal Service $500 million per year.
"The Postal Service is no longer able to sustain 31,000 post offices across the nation due to the mail volume and the revenue dropped," Cindy Bolles, manager of operations for Central Missouri post offices told Hartsburg residents at a meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Since 2007, the Postal Service has lost $25 billion. In the last 10 years, the amount of first-class mail sent has been reduced by half. As part of a business decision, the Postal Service decided to reduce post office hours in rural communities rather than close them completely, Bolles said.
Reduced window hours
The Postal Service conducted a survey in February that found 54 percent of rural communities preferred post office hour realignment instead of closure, according to a Postal Service release.
"The post office is not going to close small offices unless the community would like another option," Bolles said.
The Postal Service sent out 936 surveys to Hartsburg residents. Of the 327 surveys returned, 78 percent of customers voted to realign post office hours, according to the survey results.
New potential window hours at the Hartsburg location are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. Saturday. A notice will be posted within a week alerting customers to the new window hours once the decision is finalized. However, there isn't a clear time frame of when the actual changes will occur.
"We'll post 30 days prior to the change, saying what the hours will be at the Hartsburg post office," Bolles said.
Residents will still have 24-hour access to their post office boxes, but the mail will no longer be sorted in Hartsburg. Instead, the routes will be moved to Ashland, where the mail will be delivered, sorted and picked up by the carriers, who will then deliver mail to its respective location.
"The mail will be dropped off at Ashland, the carrier will leave Ashland and drop the P.O. box mail (at Hartsburg) on his way to deliver the mail to you," Bolles told the crowd.
This upset some residents and a brief murmur went through the crowd.
"They're just going to move us to Ashland,"Kevin Scott, a mail carrier said. "I'm gonna pick the mail up there in Ashland, and I'm going to deliver the route just about the same as I do now."
Connie Barner wasn't surprised at the changes.
"I thought this was coming 10 years ago," Barner said. She worked as a mail facility clerk for 32 years.
During the spring of 2014, the Postal Service will re-evaluate rural post offices, Bolles said. If revenue and mail volume goes down, office hours could be reduced again; if revenue and mail volume goes up, then hours could increase up to six or eight hours.
"There's three things you should never take out of the community: the post office, churches and the American Legion," Barner said.