WASHINGTON — More than 300 rural post offices across Oklahoma would have their operating hours reduced as part of a plan by the U.S. Postal Service to avoid thousands of closures but still save money.
The Postal Service had been considering closing more than 85 Oklahoma post offices and 3,700 nationwide. Instead, 328 post offices in Oklahoma will have their hours reduced by two to six hours a day. That's 57 percent of the post offices in Oklahoma.
All of the rural Oklahoma post offices that had been set for closure would be spared under the new proposal, which would affect about 13,000 post offices nationwide.
In the Major County town of Isabella, for instance, daily operating hours would be reduced from eight to two, while in the Bryan County town of Kenefic the eight-hour day would be cut in half.
U.S. Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahue said, “We've listened to our customers in rural America, and we've heard them loud and clear — they want to keep their post office open.”
Since announcing the plan last summer to close rural post offices, the Postal Service has met strong resistance from rural residents and their representatives in Congress. The Postal Service said a February survey showed 54 percent of rural customers would prefer having office hours reduced to losing their post offices.
The postal service will offer options to towns for consolidating post offices if they don't like the plan for reducing hours. They include using a local retailer for basic postal services; relying on a nearby post office or expanding rural delivery.
When the plan is fully implemented in September 2014, the Postal Service expects to save about $500 million a year. About 13,000 employees would have their hours reduced to part time, and 9,000 of those would lose their benefits.
Under the plan, access to the retail lobby and post office boxes would remain unchanged, and the town's ZIP code and community identity would be retained.
Congress has been considering postal reform legislation to help the struggling service reduce its annual deficits. Among the options being considered is ending Saturday delivery.