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USPS continues hours realignment

SoVaNow.com / July 30, 2014
Meetings for Baskerville, Skipwith P.O.
For over 130 years, the Post Office in Skipwith has been a centerpiece of the community. Now it, along with the Baskerville facility will be having its hours curtailed as part of the United States Postal Service’s realignment of rural post office operating hours based on reduced customer traffic.

Postal patrons are encouraged to stop by the facility on Thursday, July 31 to voice their feelings about the realignment plan. The meeting for Skipwith postal patrons is set for 12:30 p.m. at the Post Office, 6000 Skipwith Rd., and the meeting for Baskerville is 3 p.m. at that Post Office, 4444 Baskerville Rd.

Based on information provided to the branches, in advance of each meeting, the new hours of operation will be no more than four hours per day, either 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Currently the Skipwith and Baskerville branches are open nearly eight hours per day Monday through Friday. Skipwith is also open four and a half hours on Saturday and Baskerville is open for three and a half hours.

A spokesperson with the US Postal Service said they give serious consideration to the public comments received at these meetings and will, as much as possible, develop a schedule for retail window services that meets customers’ needs.

When the reduced hours begin, customers needing counter service before 11 a.m. or after 3 or 3:30 p.m. will have to drive to South Hill, Chase City, Boydton, or Clarksville.

Since these branches will be part-time only, all full-time Postal Service employees must relocate to another full-time facility or face losing their job. If there are no full-time positions available in or around Mecklenburg County, these employees would have to move if they choose to continue working for the Postal Service.

None of these changes will take place until renovations are made to secure the sites and allow postal patrons 24/7 access to their mailbox.

According to Postmaster Barbara Mills, the Post Office in Red Oak has known for two years, when the USPS announced in May 2012, that it would become a part-time facility. Despite that knowledge, no work has been done to close off public access to all but the individual mailboxes.

The Postal Service, in a letter to area postmasters said the realignment of operating hours is part of the U.S. Postal Service POST Plan, which is designed to keep rural Post Offices open, but at a reduced cost. It is only one step being taken by the agency to try and stem mounting financial losses.

According to a fact sheet on the Postal Service website, increases in postal rates have not stemmed the loss of revenue the agency has suffered over the past decade as more people switch to email and other electronic communications. The fact sheet reported a 25 percent decline in mail volume in less than a decade has reduced the USPS annual revenue by $10 billion.

According to the USPS, the realignment of hours will allow Post Office locations to remain open which in turn allows the towns’ ZIP Code and identity to be retained. The two-year process to finalize the plan for more than 13,000 Post Offices identified based on customer use was expected to be completed in September. The timeline for the plan, known as the Post Plan, has been extended until early January 2015. The USPS estimates a savings of half-billion dollars annually.

The Postal Service also has been attempting to mitigate costs through consolidation of processing centers and the reduction of retail window hours for rural Post Office locations. The Roanoke’s Processing and Distribution Center is expected to consolidate with Greensboro P&DC in 2015. The nationwide consolidation effort is projected to save approximately $750 million per year once implemented.

Crystal Hill and Cluster Springs in Halifax County have already implemented the USPS realignment of hours. Wyliesburg and Drakes Branch in Charlotte County are currently going through the process.

There are nine essentially full-time post offices operating in Mecklenburg County, according to the Postal Service. So far, the only two affected by the realignment are Baskerville and Skipwith. No changes are currently anticipated for the Post Offices in Boydton, Bracey, Buffalo Junction, Chase City, Clarksville, South Hill and La Crosse.

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