The Clay and Palmerdale post offices are on a list to have the window hours cut back sometime within the next two years, according to a May announcement from the U.S. Postal Service.
The announcement describes it as a “framework to achieve significant cost savings as part of the plan to return the organization to financial stability.” From Jan. 1 to March 31, the USPS had a net loss of $3.2 billion, the USPS website states. This is despite closures of some post offices since July 2011.
The USPS website attributes the losses mostly to “legislative mandates, such as the unique mandated pre-funding of retiree health benefits, and prohibiting management from making the needed operational and human resource changes required…”
A list of proposed post office closings was released in July 2011, but Congress stepped in to prevent all the closures, citing the importance local post offices have in small communities.
In the plan to keep some of them open, some “13,000 of the nation’s smallest post offices will be reviewed using this new strategy.” While window or retail service hours will be reduced for many of them, the hours of public access to the boxes inside the post office will not change with the new plan.
The Clay Post Office is shown on the list as having eight work hours scheduled now. However, on Monday-Friday, the window hours are 6.5 hours a day. The postmaster must spend some time on paperwork and inserting mail into the boxes.
The new planned working hours for Clay amounts to six a day, which would cut back the window hours to less than that.
Thus, Clay Postmaster Lori Hebson, along with about 9,000 others, is now looking for another full-time position with benefits in the USPS.
The Palmerdale Post Office is on the list to have work hours cut to four each day.
The post offices having the least amount of retail business and the lowest earned work load are on the list. USPS Birmingham Director Timothy Costello said 88 percent of “small rural post offices do not cover operating costs.”
Patrons often must wait in line to get services at the Clay Post Office
. USPS Communications Programs Specialist Debbie Fetterly said she could not reveal whether the Clay Post Office is profitable or the amount of retail business it receives.
Hebson referred all questions to Fetterly, except to say she has been the Clay postmaster for eight years and the hours of operation.
Pinson, Springville, Center Point and Trussville’s post offices, all of which include mail delivery service, are not included in the list of ones affected by the cutbacks. However, Glenda Gilligan said she would prefer the decision was the other way around. The Trussville resident comes to the Clay Post Office for her mailing needs.
“I get better service here,” she said.
Before the cuts are applied, the USPS will host a community-wide meeting in Clay where other options are presented. The other options are to have increased services offered from the mail carriers, offering the services through a store in what is termed a “village post office” or providing the services through a nearby post office.
According to Costello, 40 percent of USPS retail purchases are online.
Clay City Councilwoman Becky Johnson is not happy with the announcement.
“The people in Clay need their own ZIP code but are losing part of their post office service,” she said.
Since the city of Clay formed in 2000, city leaders have tried unsuccessfully to increase services at the Clay Post Office, particularly by adding mail delivery for residences and businesses with an accompanying Clay ZIP code.
One of the reasons city leaders tried to get this is because when a Clay resident gets a package notice in their mailbox, they must go to the Trussville, Center Point, Springville or Pinson post office to pick it up according to their ZIP code.
After waiting in line at the Clay Post Office on June 1, two teenage girls were told they had to go to the Trussville Post Office to pick up the package after receiving a notice. “All the way over there?” asked Drayton Meacham. “She lives in Clay, why wouldn’t you pick it up in Clay?”
The distance from the Clay Post Office to the Trussville Post Office is 7.71 miles and the distance from the Clay Post Office to the Pinson Post Office is 5.76 miles.
The meetings and changes will take place over the next two years. Full-timers opting for an early buyout plan have a June 22 deadline to make that decision and would be finished by July 31.