Post office closings


No way! PRC rejects appeal on post office closure for being late — by one day

August 27, 2013

Last Friday afternoon, the Postal Regulatory Commission sent letters to the folks appealing the closure of the Franklin Station post office in Somerset County, New Jersey, telling them the appeals had been filed too late and were consequently being rejected.  The appeals were postmarked one day after the filing deadline.  

The Commission’s decision is disturbing for a number of reasons.

First off, the Franklin post office is a station, and since the Postal Service believes only independent post offices are entitled to an appeal, the Final Determination notice announcing the closure did not inform Franklin customers they could appeal to the PRC.  It’s a wonder they even discovered that an appeal could be filed.  How could the people in Franklin know that the Commission disagrees with the Postal Service about stations and branches and always accepts appeals, regardless of the facility’s classification?

Then there’s the fact that the discontinuance study was conducted in late 2011 and early 2012.  A moratorium on post office closings ran from December 2011 to May 2012, so the Postal Service stopped the discontinuance process before it was completed.  Most people in Franklin probably had no idea that sometime this summer postal officials had resumed the process and signed off on the Final Determination.  There had been no talk about a possible closure since the public meeting was held back in February 2012.

It's even possible that Franklin customers didn't realize the appeal was late.  The Final Determination does not state that one has 30 days to file the appeal — it doesn't even mention the right to an appeal to begin with.  It does state, however, that the Final Determination should be posted until August 13, which is the day the appeals were sent in.

There's a chance that the Commission would have considered a late appeal if it had been accompanied by a request for late acceptance.  The Commission is currently considering such a request on the appeal in Freistatt, Missouri.  If it were necessary to file a request for late acceptance, then someone at the PRC should have immediately advised the petitioners to do so.  That obviously didn't happen.

Chairman Ruth Goldway dissented from the decision to reject the Franklin appeal, for reasons that go unstated in the letter to the petitioners.  The four other commissioners agreed that the appeal should not be heard.  The commissioners didn’t even wait for the Postal Service to file a motion to dismiss the case, they didn’t give the Public Representative an opportunity to weigh in, and they didn’t ask to hear from the petitioners why the appeal wasn’t submitted sooner.  The four commissioners simply decided that one day late was sufficient cause to reject the appeal.

It should be noted, by the way, that parties often ask the Commission to accept late filings.  Since 1997, the Postal Service has filed something like 1,200 Motions for Late Acceptance.  The Commission granted nearly every one.

Gretna gears up to save the post office, again

July 30, 2013

For nearly 70 years, the people in Gretna, Louisiana, did their postal business at a beautiful post office built in 1936.  It had a New Deal mural entitled “Steamboats on the Mississippi,” painted by Stuart R. Purser in 1939.

In 2003 the Postal Service announced that it wanted to close the post office and sell the building.  The city of Gretna responded.  It bought the historic building (which is now being renovated), and offered to convert an old train depot, just a block away, into a post office.  According to nola.com, renovations of the station were done using $100,000 in city and state money.  Then the city gave the Postal Service a sweet deal — $11,000 a year for the 900-square-foot space.

So for the past ten years, downtown Gretna has enjoyed having a small post office in a historic train station.  It’s been a boon to businesses, given new life to the old station, and served an important social and economic role in Gretna.  All the work elected officials did to keep a post office downtown paid off.  They even saved the mural and had it moved over to the new post office.

Now the Postal Service wants to close the railroad station post office.  The savings will just be the small amount of rent and the salary of one postal worker, but somehow the Postal Service estimates a ten-year savings of $729,000, even though that employee will just be transferred to the main office in Gretna.

Customers say it’s always busy at the post office, and city officials say closing it would not just be a loss to the community.  “It’s critical to business and government,” says the mayor.

The Postal Service began taking steps to close the office in early 2012, and there was a rally to stop it.  For some reason, the Postal Service backed off.

Now the Postal Service is picking up where it left off, and city officials are gearing up for another fight.  The Parish Council passed a resolution opposing a closure, and residents have been urged to share their views with the Postal Service.

Gretna saved the post office in 2003 and again in 2012.  It’s going to be tough winning round three.

(Photo credits: "Steamboats on the Mississippi" muralGretna, LA RR station post office; Gretna's old New Deal post office)

Postal Service reduces hours at post office, then cites declining revenue to close it

July 29, 2013

The rationales offered by the Postal Service when it wants to close a post offices are often not very rational, but what’s happening in East Irvine, California, is a good example of just how irrational the logic of postal management can get.

In 2011, when thousands of post offices were being reviewed for closure, the Postal Service often cited a decline in annual revenues over the previous years as one reason to close the post office.  Considering that the Recession had begun in 2008, it was not surprising that revenues were falling, but that didn’t stop the Postal Service from considering the decline as a valid justification for closing a post office.

The story in East Irvine is a little more frustrating for customers to understand. 

In 2009, the Postal Service wanted to close their post office, but local historians and residents protested.  The post office is housed in a historic 1890 building, which the Postal Service has leased since 1990, and people loved going there for a taste of history.

As a compromise, the Postal Service agreed to keep the office open, but at reduced hours.  It’s been open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday, with no Saturday hours. 

Now the Postal Service is studying the East Irvine post office for discontinuance.  The reason cited?  "A steady lack of revenue and/or volume."

Rolland Graham, President of Mountain Outin' Tour Company, is a regular customer of the East Irvine office.  "This is the third time we've had to go through this," Graham told the Orange County Register. "It's very frustrating because we can't do any planning." 

The lack of revenue and volume at the facility, Graham said, is a result of a reduction in hours there, part of the compromise reached the last time it was facing the possibility of closure.

Last week Postal Service held the public meeting required by the discontinuance regulations, and now it’s waiting for customers to return a survey.  The outcome is not much in doubt. 

The owner of the building has already put the property on the market.  The listing says the lease ends next July.  The post office will be probably be closed long before then.

Image credit: East Irving post office, on Google Street Views

The Postal Service shares some lists: Closures, Suspensions, VPOs, CPUs, and Retail Channels

January 18, 2013

Yesterday the Postal Service provided the Postal Regulatory Commission with some lists and other material for the annual compliance report.  They include the post offices that were closed and suspended during fiscal year 2012 (October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012), as well as information about retail revenue sources and Contract Postal Units (CPUs) and Village Post Offices (VPOs).

You can download the lists from the PRC website here.  To make access simpler, we’ve posted the lists on Google Docs, where you can see them in the original spreadsheet form but also as tables and maps.

Post Offices Closed in FY 2012
Post Offices Suspended during FY 2012
VPOs in operation as of 9/30/2012
CPUs and CPOs at end of FY 2012

 

Retail Revenue Channels

The Postal Service has provided a table that shows the sources for retail revenues.  Because the big mailers are not considered “retail," the retail revenues account for only a portion of the agency’s total revenues — about $17 billion out of $65 billion.  The big mailers take their mail to pre-sort companies or directly to USPS Bulk Mail Entry Units.  “Retail” therefore applies to the average customer — individuals, small businesses, etc.

The following table indicates the “channels” through which the Postal Service takes in its retail revenues.

Channel
FY2012 Revenue (in $ millions)
Share of Total Retail Revenue
Change from FY2011
Post Offices (WIR)
$10,627
60.9%
-3.6%
PC Postage
$3,604
20.7%
4.1%
Stamps Only Sales by Retail Partners
$1,226
7.0%
0.2%
Automated Postal Centers (kiosks)
$497
2.9%
-0.4%
Stamps by Mail/Phone/Fax
$517
3.0%
0.0%
Contract Postal Units
$376
2.2%
-0.4%
Click-N-Ship
$484
2.8%
0.1%
Other
$119
0.7%
0.1%
Total Retail Revenue
$17,450
100.0%
2.9%
 

The Postal Service likes to say that people aren’t using the traditional brick-and-mortar post office like they used to, but the traditional post office continues to be the main source of retail revenue.  As the table shows, while post office retail is down 3.6% since last year, post offices still account for over 60% of retail revenues

The only significant source of retail revenues aside from the post office is PC Postage, which refers to vendors and authorized providers who print their own shipping and postage labels, such as Click-N-Ship, PayPal Ship Now, eBay's Shipping Label, and Dymo Stamps.  Retail revenues from PC Postage have naturally increased along with the rise of e-commerce — and thanks to promotional efforts by the Postal Service.

Stamp sales by retail partners account for a mere 7 percent of retail revenues.  That’s despite the fact that there are about 32,000 post offices (not including contract units) and over 63,000 retail partners.  Plus, revenues from those partners are virtually flat since last year, with an insignificant increase of 0.2 percent — despite all the effort the Postal Service has put into its USPS Everywhere campaign. 

In fact, now when you go to the USPS “find locations” page, the default for “location types” is not post offices, but “post offices and approved postal providers.”  The Postal Service is doing everything it can to encourage customers to look for alternatives to its network of post offices.

It will be interesting to see how post offices revenues fare over the next couple of years as hours are reduced at 13,000 small rural post offices and larger urban offices are relocated to inconveniently located annexes.  

 

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