Mansfield, Newborn post offices could get hours cut

COVINGTON -- Mansfield and Newborn are two of the more than 250 post offices in rural Georgia proposed to have hours reduced, according to the U.S. Postal Service.

The post offices in those towns will have daily hours cut from eight to six if the current proposal is approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission. Access to the retail lobbies and to P.O. boxes would remain unchanged. New operating hours and any additional impact to those two post offices won't be known until the PRC completes a 90-day review of the proposal.

The U.S. Postal Service announced on May 9 a new strategy to keep the nation's smallest post offices open when public outcry followed the announcement that nearly 3,700 offices would be studied for possible closure.

The strategy includes reducing retail hours and giving communities several other options in lieu of maintaining its post office. Those options include providing mail delivery services in the affected area by either rural carrier or highway contract route; contracting with a local business to create a village post office; and offering services from a nearby post office.

Once the PRC makes a decision, community meetings will be held to determine residents' preference. According to the USPS, a recent survey indicated that 54 percent of rural customers prefer to maintain their local post office. Forty-six percent would prefer one of the three above options.

"Meeting the needs of postal customers is, and always will be, a top priority," said Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe in a press release. "With that said, we've listened to our customers in rural America and we've heard them loud and clear -- they want to keep their Post Office open."

Donahoe said the strategy will serve customers' needs and "allow us to achieve real savings to help the Postal Service return to long-term financial stability."

The new strategy will be implemented over two years. Once implementation is complete in September 2014, the U.S. Postal Service anticipates a savings of $500 million per year.

A voluntary early retirement inventive for the nation's more than 21,000 non-executive postmasters was also announced.

According to the Postal Service, revenue and visits to post offices are decreasing, with a 27 percent drop, or 350 million fewer visits -- since 2005. Eighty-eight percent of rural post offices are losing money. The PRC is expected to finish its review by September, when the community meetings will begin.