The U.S. Postal Service laid out its newly selected operating hours to customers of the Harvard branch Wednesday as part of a national plan to reduce hours at thousands of offices rather than shutter them.
Harvard, Viola, Bovill and Elk River branches had all been tagged for closure last year until Congress stepped in. The plan is to now reduce operating hours for them and more than 13,000 mostly rural offices nationwide to save about $500 million in operating costs with the four local offices going to four hours.
Washington offices also facing reduced hours include St. John, Uniontown, Farmington, Malden, Steptoe and Garfield. Colton, Endicott, Oakesdale and Rosalia initially had been targeted but are no longer being considered.
Harvard operates from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. Under the Postal Service's plan, weekday hours will be from 9:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. starting March 9, said Jon Boone, manager of operations for USPS Area 6. He said the times were created using feedback from the 49 out of 99 surveys returned by Harvard residents. While the national average return rate for the surveys has been 10 percent, Harvard's was around 50 percent.
The times were not as important to customers at Wednesday's hearing as seeing evidence supporting the need to reduce hours, particularly the cost of running the Harvard office compared to its revenue.
"This post office is paying for itself," said Denny Chandler. "Why are we reducing the hours? It doesn't make much sense."
Boone said he didn't have those figures, which residents said they had requested last year when Postal Service representatives came to the small town to talk about plans to close the office.
"Unless you have them, then the decisions you're making are not based on hard figures," said former Idaho Rep. Tom Trail, standing in for newly elected District 5 Rep. Cindy Agidius.
Boone promised to relate hard figures back to attendees, adding USPS doesn't have data broken down to show what the savings just for operating the Harvard office is estimated to be. He said it's important to make sure the correct ZIP code is used so revenue is documented there.
"I'm sure you would undoubtedly lose some customers by losing hours," said Daryl Minden.
Brad Hamburg, who runs an online business, said he spends about $2,800 a month on postage to send out orders. He told Boone he didn't feel the Postal Service was making its decision based on numbers.
"Here we are again and we still don't have the figures," he said. "I just want to see a cost and your profits."
Boone said post offices will be reassessed at the end of 2014 with the ultimate goal being to keep them open.
"If they go up in revenue, they go up in hours," he said.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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