The U.S. Postal Service is studying the possibility of closing more than 85 post offices in Oklahoma, mostly in rural areas, as a cost-cutting move.
On Dec. 13, the Postal Service agreed to delay the closing of 252 mail processing centers and 3,700 local post offices nationally until mid-May.
Dionne Montague, a Houston-based spokeswoman for the Postal Service, said, “Because of our financial challenges, the Postal Service regularly reviews and evaluates its post office operations in a continuing effort to better meet customers' service and retail needs, improve productivity, increase efficiency, and cut costs.”
She said current studies include offices across the country that meet these criteria: low activity offices that have had less than two hours of work per day for the past 12 months; stations with less than $600,000 annual revenue and five or more alternate access points within two miles; and those that have declining revenue in fiscal year 2010 as compared with the average revenue from 2008 and 2009.
The Postal Service had released a statement: “Our customer's habits have made it clear they no longer require a physical post office to conduct most of their postal business. More and more of them are choosing to conduct their postal business online, on their smartphone and at their shopping destinations. And that means the need for us to maintain nearly 32,000 retail offices has diminished.”
The Postal Service hopes to set up “village post offices” at convenience stores and other sites to sell stamps, accept packages and, in some instances, provide post office boxes in the affected areas. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said about 35 percent of the agency's retail revenue comes from sales at grocery, drug and office supply stores, ATMs and online.
The agreement by the Postal Service to delay possible closing also means that cuts to first-class mail that would slow delivery and eliminate the chance for stamped letters to arrive the next day, would not occur before May 15. Previously, the post office said it hoped to implement the cuts to first-class service in April.
About 100,000 postal employees could be cut as a result of closures. Postal officials have said this is expected to save up to $6.5 billion a year.
The Postal Service, an independent agency of government, does not receive tax money, but it is subject to congressional control on major aspects of its operations.
Separate bills that have passed House and Senate committees would give the Postal Service more authority to reduce delivery to five days a week, raise stamp prices and reduce health care and other labor costs.
The Senate bill would refund what the Postal Service overpaid into a federal retirement fund, encourage a restructuring of health benefits and reduce the agency's annual payments into a future retiree health account.
There are 573 retail post offices in Oklahoma. Since 2009, 12 Oklahoma District post offices have been closed under the post office discontinuance process, Montague said.
Offices are categorized into levels based on their distribution, delivery and retail workload. The hours they are open for retail services depend on the office level, she said.
“Determining the cost savings is a component of these studies, and data is not yet finalized for the Oklahoma offices,” Montague said.