According to the United Postal Service website, as many as 3,700 of the United States’ 31,000 post offices are under consideration for closure: 112 of them in California.
Blame it on the Internet or the economy or the alignment of the moon and stars, but according to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe in a July interview with CNN, changes are in the wind.
“The Postal Service of the future will be smaller, leaner and more competitive and it will continue to drive commerce, serve communities and deliver value,” he said.
Since 2007, overall mail volume has declined 20 percent, and the numbers – as well as revenue – continue to drop.
But the good news, at least for now, is that East County’s post offices have escaped the chopping block – a reprieve Daniel Uemura, postmaster for Byron and Discovery Bay, hopes will continue. “Obviously I have concerns, but there have been no indications (of closures),” said Uemura. “We are tightening our belts where we can and limiting working hours as necessary.”
Officials estimate that shutting down a percentage of the nation’s post offices could save as much as $200 million and take the beleaguered postal system another step toward closing the $20 billion revenue gap expected by 2015.
But in rural communities such as Knightsen, which oversees 575 post office boxes and makes no home deliveries, the demise of the 100-year-old post office would eliminate more than the town’s mail service. “It’s a real social event for people,” said Postal Service Manager Philip Laurence. “The building here is a popular gathering place for people; the center of things.”
Although the majority of the earmarked locations are rural sites, ZIP codes from Beverly Hills to New York City are potential targets. Most of the post offices being studied for closure draw so little foot traffic that workers average less than two hours of work and average sales total less than $50 daily, according to the Postal Service. Closures are expected to begin in January.
In order to accommodate the closures, the Postal Service plans to introduce what it calls Village Post Offices. These offices would be operated by pharmacies, grocery stores and other retailers and would offer popular postal products such as stamps and flat-rate packaging.
East County resident Ken Carey is troubled by the prospect of Byron’s 85-year-old facility on Main Street closing and being replaced by a Village Post Office. “Well yeah, I think it would be terrible (if the Byron location closed),” said Carey. “But frankly, I’m surprised it hasn’t been closed yet. Maybe it won’t be.”
According to Uemura, Byron mail delivery accounts for about 3 percent of Discovery Bay/Byron’s 7,000 postal routes. And as 95 percent of the Byron facility’s employees work in Discovery Bay and 100 percent of the deliveries are made there as well, Uemura is well aware that Byron could eventually be eliminated.
“My opinion would be that Byron would be the one to close if they had to choose (between Discovery Bay and Byron),” said Uemura. “The Discovery Bay building is three times the size of Byron and there is a lot of walk-in traffic, too. We’re just keeping our heads down and doing our jobs.”
To learn more about the potential post office closures, log onto the USPS website at www.usps.com.