Dropping day of mail a 'last resort,' local USPS man says

Friday, April 10, 2009
Le Mars Post Office Supervisor Barry Snyder sorts through some of the about 10,000 pieces of mail that come through every day. While the local post office is making changes due to a tighter budget, delivery won't likely be cut from six days to five, Snyder said.

Earlier this year the United States Postal Service's postmaster general caused a stir when he told Congress the USPS may temporarily drop one day of mail delivery.

But the likelihood of going from six-day delivery to five days is slim, according to Barry Snyder, supervisor at the Le Mars Post Office.

"Cutting one day has been addressed, but it would be a last resort for the post office," Snyder said.

Other cuts are being made so that won't have to happen.

Recent economy troubles, Snyder said, have left the USPS hurting.

In 2008, the postal service lost $2.8 billion due to one of the biggest declines in mail volume since the Great Depression, Postmaster General John Potter said in his January speech to Congress.

The USPS, he added, the nation's second-largest employer, is in "acute financial crisis."

The financial pinch is not so tight in Le Mars, Snyder said, but it does exist.

Nationally, mail volume decreased by 12-14 percent compared to last year.

In Le Mars, the drop was only 7-8 percent.

"A lot of that is due to our strong agricultural community," Snyder said. "We haven't had quite the impact as the national level."

On the national level, mail from banks and financial institutions dropped as they merged or collapsed. And across the board, a tighter economy meant businesses were trimming down mailed advertisements, organizations switched to every other month for newsletters, and people simply mailed less, Snyder said.

"Our volume is starting to pick up now," he noted.

Along with mail volume, revenue has decreased by 8 percent in the last year. Revenue comes from bulk mailing, mailing packages and general shipping costs, Snyder explained.

The decreases have to be evened out somewhere.

In Le Mars, that has meant cutting back work hours.

That meant eliminating holidays and Sundays as work days for employees, adjusting city carrier routes.

Snyder said the Le Mars Post Office hasn't trimmed back lobby hours or any of the USPS services.

No Le Mars jobs were cut, Snyder said, but a few were at the Sioux City mail processing center and others across the region.

Another small change is ahead. The price of a regular stamp will rise 2 cents May 11 to 44 cents.

"But Forever Stamps are still good...forever," Snyder noted.

At the national level, USPS officials are pushing for a change in how employees' retirement health premiums are paid -- a move that would free up several billion dollars, Snyder said.

If that fails, officials may push for the switch to five-day delivery.

"Saturday would be on the table," Snyder said, noting that many businesses are closed on Saturdays and the post office has reduced hours that day.

"But we'd also look at a mid-week day, like Tuesday or Wednesday," he added.

That decision would appease larger corporations like credit card companies who don't want to have a two-day stretch of no mail because they'd lose interest on money coming in on those days.

"But Congress was staunch on keeping delivery at six days," Snyder said. "Again, it would be a last resort."

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