The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 7, 2013

Ashtabula County area post offices may feel squeeze of new letter delivery schedule

Star Beacon

— Wait a minute, Mr. Postman!

Local letter carriers will shuffle schedules and re-arrange routes in August when the United States Postal Service drops Saturday delivery of first-class mail, USPS regional spokesman David Van Allen said Wednesday.

“Right now letter carriers deliver mail five days a week, 40 hours a week, with rotating days off,” Van Allen said. “But the change means there will be some impact to the 35,000 letter carriers across the country, including career and non-career positions.”

“Non-career” positions include letter carrier substitutes and other independent contractors.

The plan, which does not address closing or consolidating post offices, will save the postal service about $2 billion a year, Van Allen said, while maintaining Saturday package and express mail and all weekend post office operating hours.

Local residents may see some difference in their postal delivery, Van Allen said, though USPS administrators are working with magazine publishers and catalog distributors to adjust publication and delivery days.

“We are working closely with national mailers to adjust the days of delivery for magazine subscribers,” he said. “Maintaining convenience in the mail delivery is our top priority. We plan to publish specific guides for residential and business customers about its new delivery schedule.”

Blame for the postal service’s financial woes can be places squarely on the internet, Van Allen said, as people write far fewer letters and far more emails.

“The way people communicate has changed,” he said. “People write to each other differently now. First Class mail — letters and bills — that’s our bread and butter. People write emails instead of letters and they use online  bill pay  instead

of writing out checks. We have to adapt to those social changes.”

Van Allen said first class mail has dropped 50 percent since 2006, but a drastic increase in online purchases has boosted package delivery by 14 percent.

“People buy online more and more,” he said, “so maintaining package delivery six days a week is important, not just for the post office, but also for e-commerce and their customers.”

Health benefits for future retirees is another major financial blow, Van Allen said, as the USPS will use a combination of employee reassignment and a reduction of employees through retirement. The postal service is not funded by tax dollars. Operating expenses are maintained through the sale of postage, products and services.

The $2 billion a year cost reduction plan is getting positive reviews from the public, he said.

“Our market research and independent research by major news organizations indicate that nearly seven out of 10 Americans support the switch to five-day delivery,” he said. “And that was before we said we would keep Saturday package delivery.”

At the end of the day, everyone wants to see the post office succeed, Van Allen said.

“These are big steps toward restoring long-term financial security for the postal service,” he said. “Public support has been positive and we are looking forward to financial success through this transition.”