The U.S. Postal Service is moving ahead with plans to reduce hours at 244 Maine post offices, including 15 in Washington County, over the next year as a cost-saving measure. Previous plans to close some post offices, including the one in Meddybemps, have been dropped, following public opposition.
According to Tom Rizzo, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service Northern New England District, which includes Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, community meetings will be held in all of the affected communities before any action is taken. However, he notes that the postal service will go ahead with almost all of the planned reductions.
The affected Washington County post offices, with proposed daily retail hour reductions, are as follows: Topsfield, 8 hours to 4 hours; Vanceboro, 8 to 4; Beals, 8 to 4; Cherryfield, 8 to 6; Columbia Falls, 8 to 6; Cutler, 8 to 4; Dennysville, 8 to 4; Harrington, 8 to 6; Jonesboro, 8 to 4; Jonesport, 8 to 6; Machiasport, 8 to 6; Meddybemps, 8 to 4; Pembroke, 8 to 6; Robbinston, 8 to 4; Whiting, 8 to 4. With the modified window retail hours, access to the retail lobby and to post office boxes will remain unchanged, and the town's zip code and community identity will be retained.
The only county municipalities that have held community meetings so far are Topsfield and Vanceboro, with the meetings held in November. No other meetings have been scheduled yet in the county. The meetings will be posted in the affected post offices, and all mailing addresses within the community will receive a survey listing possible options. Those options will be: maintain the post office with reduced hours; provide delivery service using either rural carriers or highway contract routes; engage a local establishment within the community to establish a Village Post Office that could sell stamps and flat-rate shipping boxes; or merge with a nearby post office and provide service from that location. Rizzo notes that Village Post Offices would cover 85% of the post office's transactions. The street delivery option using rural carriers or highway contract routes would involve curbside mailboxes.
One week after each community meeting, a decision on which option will be taken will be announced, and that option will take effect in no fewer than 30 days. Within Maine, five post offices have already implemented the reduction in hours. The new strategy, announced last May, is being implemented in the U.S. over a two‑year, multi‑phased approach and will not be completed until September 2014. Once implementation is completed, the postal service estimates savings of a half billion dollars annually.
Rizzo notes that the postal service has been experiencing a significant decline in the amount of mail that is sent and lost $16 billion last year. He adds that $11 billion of that loss is attributable to the requirement, under a 2006 congressional mandate, to prefund the health benefits of postal service retirees.