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Postal Service seeking major changes PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Friday, 04 November 2011 18:29

By Russ Pankonin

The Imperial Republican

During a postal meeting in Champion, Gothenburg postmaster Kevin Allard said the United States Postal Service is proposing many changes.

The need for the changes come to stem billions of dollars of losses the last several years. In the last fiscal year, the USPS lost $8 billion.

Allard noted the USPS does not receive tax funds to operate.

Up until 9/11 hit, Allard said the USPS was operating in the black. Then the economy crashed and the USPS crashed with it.

In 1990, the average household received six first-class mail pieces per day.

Today, that same household gets just one first-class piece every six days.

He said they’ve already reduced postal employees by 110,000 and have had a hiring freeze for career positions for four years now.

Major changes being sought to reduce expenses centers on dropping mail service from six days to five and reducing the first-class delivery standard from one day to two days.

Allard said the USPS uses 88 million gallons of fuel per day so eliminating just one day of service would create substantial savings.

By changing the delivery standards, Allard said the USPS would consolidate sorting plants from 800 to 200.

If that were to occur, all of southwest Nebraska’s mail would be processed in Cheyenne, Wyo.

Presently, sorting plants operate on a 12-hour basis, meaning expensive equipment sits idle the other 12 hours.

Consolidation would enable the plants to operate on a 24-hour basis and reduce labor costs.

He estimated 220,000 employees would be affected by the move.

However, all of these changes are only proposed. He said Congress must change laws to give the USPS the authority to make these changes.

They also want a change in their pension funding.

Allard said the USPS is one of only two agencies required by Congress to pre-fund its pension system.

He said the USPS is already setting aside pension funding for employees that haven’t even been hired yet.

Annually, the USPS must set aside $5.5 billion in revenues to prepay those pensions.

Right now, Allard said their pension system is over funded by more than $50 billion. They would like to see Congress make changes and return some of that money for operations.

In addition, the USPS is required to fund the military pension of any retired military personnel who later go to work for the USPS.

One thing the USPS is proud of, Allard said, is that they have been able to reduce their work force without layoffs.

 

Champion residents urged to rally to save post office

By Russ Pankonin

The Imperial Republican

More than 30 Champion area residents turned out at a meeting there Wednesday night, Oct. 26 to learn more about a study that could close their post office.

Postal officials are conducting a “discontinuance study” on the Champion post office to assess the feasibility of keeping the post office there open. Champion represents the second small post office in Chase County to be considered for closure. The same process is already underway on the Enders post office.

Kevin Allard, postmaster at Gothenburg, conducted the meeting on behalf of the United States Postal Service (USPS).

The proposal as it stands calls for closing the Champion post office. Delivery of mail and retail services would be handled by rural carriers based out of the Imperial post office. He assured people there’s enough room in the Imperial facility to handle the increased load.

Champion residents will still retain a Champion address and zip code. That won’t be lost, Allard said.

In reviewing reasons for the proposed closing, Allard said the office has experienced a steady decline in volume, leading to a reduction in workload. In fiscal year 2007, revenue totalled $19,901. In 2010, the revenue had dropped to $14,060.

In addition, Champion’s postmaster, Jeannie Lenhart, retired this past August.

Marjie Buls is serving as officer-in-charge. Allard said he doubted a new postmaster will be hired, as the postal service is in the midst of a four-year hiring freeze for career positions.

Allard said federal law limits what they can do. He said offices can not operate on a part-time basis and legally must be run by a postmaster.

If USPS could get Congress to make some changes to postal statutes, Allard said it would give them more latitude to deal with more than $8 billion in losses in the last fiscal year.

Closing the Champion office would save USPS an estimated $76,000 in the first year and $761,779 over a 10-year period.

Will that save the USPS? No, Allard admitted, but when they have been bleeding red ink like they have, the USPS must start making some tough decisions.

The USPS is reviewing 3,700 post offices in the country, of which about 80 percent are in rural areas.

Allard said closings aren’t just limited to rural areas. He said two offices in Lincoln and two in Omaha have already been closed.

In Gering, carriers are now dispatched out of the Scottsbluff post office, saving the expense of one management team.

 

Time for residents to rally

Allard said the closing of the Champion office is not a given. The mind of the USPS is not already made up.

“That’s why we’re doing the study.”

The most important thing right now, he advised, was for the Champion community to “rally” and “let us know why we should save the Champion post office.”

There’s a number of things the community can do, he said.

USPS has created a docket or file for the Champion study that is available at the Champion and Imperial post offices.

“You need to build that docket. Get it thick,” he said.

The first way to do that is to fill out the customer questionnaire survey.

People don’t have to be from Champion to fill out the survey, Allard emphasized. Get as many people as possible to fill out the survey; they don’t even have to live in Champion, he added.

He suggested assembling a community booklet that outlines community activities, local attractions, etc.

The goal is to get the docket full of as many things about the community as possible, he said. These dockets will be reviewed as part of the study, he said, and will make an impact.

“I hope I have inspired you to rally and get info together to make sure the community wants to fight for their post office,” Allard said in closing the meeting.

 

Last Updated on Friday, 04 November 2011 18:31