Lincoln residents in the Waynesburg and McKinney communities seemed more relieved than anything else last week after hearing about plans to reduce hours at their local post offices.
"You brought good news," McKinney resident Tommie Gooch told USPS Manager of Operations Thomas Adkins Wednesday afternoon. "We were afraid we were going to close."
Adkins spent about half an hour in McKinney Wednesday and a little more than an hour in Waynesburg Friday explaining the United States Post Office's plan to scale back hours at more than 33,000 13,000 small post offices.
Adkins said the Post Office is facing a "perfect storm" financially speaking.
The financial meltdown that began in 2008 heavily impacted two of the Post Office's biggest customers — the auto and banking industries. The Internet continues to reduce how much people use regular mail. And congress continues to require USPS to pre-pay $6 billion per year in retirement funds, he said.
Add all of it together and the Post Office is in a situation where it can't afford to continue operating as it has in the past, Adkins said.
"Communication is just different now from when we were growing up," he told several dozen people who gathered for the Waynesburg meeting. "Most elementary schools do not teach writing anymore. … Students log on; they don't write."
In order to stay afloat financially, Adkins said the Post Office's initial plan was to close around 3,300 small post offices around the country. But members of congress began fighting over which post offices would close, trying to get USPS to leave certain ones open and close others, he said.
In order to avoid closing post offices, USPS opted for reducing hours at 33,000 13,000 post offices instead. The amount of business done at each post office's retail window was used to help determine whether each post office should be open two, four, six or eight hours per day, Adkins said.
In McKinney, the plan is to reduce retail window hours from eight per day to two per day; Waynesburg will see a reduction from eight hours per day to six.
Both locations will continue to offer 24/7 access to their P.O. boxes and retail lobbies.
The new hours are expected to begin sometime during the first few weeks of January, Adkins said.
The initial plan is for Waynesburg to be open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., with an hour-long lunch break in the middle. The plan for McKinney's hours is 1:30-3:30 p.m., but attendees at the Wednesday meeting told Adkins they might prefer to have morning hours instead.
Representatives from the McKinney Water Department said without morning hours, it may complicate the process of turning off water to customers who haven't paid their bills.
Adkins, who oversees post offices with zip codes beginning 404 and 403, is holding meetings for each of the 15 post offices in his area that are scheduled for hour reductions, and then bringing the concerns from residents back for other administrators to consider.
The desire from the McKinney residents to have morning instead of afternoon hours will be included in the database of concerns that he submits, Adkins said.
Adkins said after this initial reduction in hours, post offices will be re-assessed either every year or every two years and have their hours adjusted according to the amount of business their retail windows do.
"The best way to keep your post office around is to use it," Adkins said. "Renting P.O. boxes, buying stamps and things like that is what keeps us going."
Adkins told Waynesburg residents that with a six-hour office, they probably don't need to be worried about the office going away very soon.
"I think a six-hour office would be fairly safe," he said. "I'd hate to be at a four- or two-hour, personally. … If I was a 2-hour office, I'd be concerned."
Former McKinney Postmaster Jackie Gibson told Adkins and a crowd of about 16 at the McKinney Post Office that she really wished the USPS would have bumped McKinney into the four-hour category.
"If they could have just given them four hours, that would been huge," she said. "I know two hours more doesn't sound like much, but it is — it's a huge difference."
Adkins said he doesn't like to see the cutbacks, which are happening at the state level as well as at local offices, anymore than customers do.
"I agree with you guys," he said at the McKinney meeting. "That's my problem — I agree with you guys."
Adkins told Waynesburg residents he thinks it's important for small areas to keep their post offices, which can help provide a sense of community.
"A community is built on a church, a school and a post office," he said. "I've always thought to build a community, that's what you needed."
Editor's note: The original version of this story included an incorrect figure for the number of post offices nationwide that will be seeing a reduction in hours. The USPS has since clarified that the actual number is around 13,000.