Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Thursday

February 7, 2013

Saturday mail delivery to end in August

TRAVERSE CITY — Dave Tupper, a self-professed money guy, applauded the U.S. Post Office's decision to end Saturday mail delivery to homes and businesses come early August.

"I think that's fabulous!" said Tupper, 44, who stood in line at the Traverse City Post Office on Wednesday. "They'll save money, and it makes them more efficient. They should have done it a decade ago."

Saturday hours for the Traverse City Post Office — 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. — won't change under the new plan. And carriers will continue to deliver packages six days a week, along with mail to post office boxes. The plan is expected to save $2 billion annually.

Patrick R. Donahoe, postmaster general and CEO, said at a press conference the move is "absolutely necessary" as part of a broader effort to stabilize the service's troubled finances.

"It would be irresponsible for the Postal Service not to pursue this course," he said.

Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said Wednesday the move "flouted the will of Congress" by dubiously claiming a 'loophole' in the law."

"If (Donahoe) were allowed to get away with this brazen attempt to override the law and the will of Congress, he would be free to go to four-day or even three-day delivery in the future," Rolando said.

Rolando predicted the move will harm the elderly, disabled, folks in rural communities and small businesses.

Customers at the Traverse City Post Office had mixed feelings about seeing their Saturday service go. Laurie Stricker, who works in property management, said the news left her a "little upset."

"I'm a landlord and I get checks in the mail at home," said Stricker, 49, of Traverse City.

After getting one such check on a Saturday — worth several months of late rent — Stricker said she was able to relax the rest of the weekend.

Yvonne Lafaive doesn't think the change will affect her.

"I'll just adjust my schedule," she said.

Paul Maxbauer said he'll also adjust, and expects others will, too.

"If they're going to save money, I can live with it," he said.

Their views aligned with Postal Service market research and other research that indicated nearly 70 percent of Americans support the switch to five-day delivery as a way to reduce costs.

The recent announcement to end Saturday delivery was considered a Postal Service end-around Congress, which repeatedly denied the service's requests for five-day delivery to save money.

For the past 30 years, Congress, which oversees the financially independent agency, has included a provision insisting on Saturday delivery. That provision still stands, leaving confusion about Wednesday's announcement.

The red ink at the Postal Service largely owes to a Congressional mandate to set aside $55 billion over 10 years to fund medical benefits for retirees. No other government agency is required to make such a payment for future medical benefits, according to a Huffington Post report.

Since 2006, the Postal Service reduced its annual costs by $15 billion by restructuring its operations. The service downsized its work force by 193,000, or 28 percent. It also consolidated more than 200 mail processing locations, Donahoe said.

The Traverse City postmaster was out of the building Wednesday and unavailable to respond. Postal Service spokeswoman Sabrina Todd in Lansing said she doesn't know how employees will react to the change. The Post Office will have to negotiate with their respective unions, she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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