• Rural post office users deal with reduced hours
    By
     | January 13,2013
     
    Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo

    Duncan Forbes of Worcester collects his mail at the town’s small post office Friday. It’s one of more than 140 post offices in Vermont affected by U.S. Postal Service cutbacks.

    CAVENDISH — Peter Ramsdell of Cavendish pulled his truck into the Cavendish post office parking lot minutes before it closed Saturday. He has used the Main Street office for 15 years because it’s convenient and close to home.

    As Ramsdell walked in, a notice on the door said the post office will now be open four hours a day, Monday through Saturday. The new hours went into effect Saturday.

    Ramsdell was disappointed to hear that post office hours will be limited. He understands the U.S. Postal Service is going through difficult financial times, but now he and his wife will have to adjust their schedules to send and receive their mail.

    “I get all my medications by mail,” Ramsdell said. “We can live with this arrangement. But if they go further and close it and attach us to the Proctorsville post office, it would be devastating.”

    The Postal Service cut the retail hours at 3,700 rural post offices across the country. More than 140 rural post offices in Vermont were reduced to operating either two, four or six hours a day, depending on their revenue and mail volume.

    Besides Cavendish, others in southern Vermont facing cutbacks include South Woodstock, Perkinsville, Plymouth, Peru, East Arlington and East Dorset.

    In the Rutland area, post offices facing reduced hours include Proctor, Pawlet, Mount Holly, Florence, Danby, East Wallingford, Cuttingsville, Hydeville, Chittenden and Salisbury.

    In the Montpelier area, affected post offices include Worcester, Roxbury and West Topsham.

    According to the Postal Service, these projected cutbacks are preliminary and subject to change.

    In Cavendish, the post office retail window had been open weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.

    But as of Saturday, they began weekday hours from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.

    According to Tom Rizzo, a northern New England spokesman for the Postal Service, postal revenue is shrinking due to declining first-class mail volume and increasingly popular alternatives such as email and mobile devices.

    Rizzo did not know how much money will be saved by cutting hours at Vermont post offices, but the Postal Service expects $500 million in annual savings across the country.

    “We were going to keep them open,” Rizzo said. “But we need to match our resources to the facts of the day, which is that people aren’t using the mail as much as they had for two centuries.”

    A Cavendish post office employee could not comment on the new developments, but a retired postmaster could.

    Eleanor Smith of Rutland, a former Chester postmaster, acknowledged that technology has affected the Postal Service. But she did not agree with the cost-saving measures.

    “I think it’s a back door into closing some of these offices,” Smith said. “When you don’t have revenue and your expenses stay the same, you know what will happen. To pay their bills, they borrowed from the federal government ... couldn’t make those huge payments. They’re scrambling to do something.”

    Smith said post offices can compete by implementing a five-day work week.

    “The Postal Service has cut upper management to the point where it’s difficult for these people to get mail on the street,” she said. “The five-day work week would save money and most businesses said they can live with that. They will need the approval of Congress to get that.”

    As for Ramsdell, he said he hopes Congress will use taxpayer dollars to keep rural post offices going.

    “With all the pork and waste in Washington, you’d think they’d give them some more support,” he said. “Everybody gets the benefit of the (Cavendish post office) every day.”

    christian.avard

    @rutlandherald.com

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