Residents in some small rural Luzerne County communities will get the chance to help decide the fate of their post offices. Options include closures or reduced hours for window service.
The U.S. Postal Service has begun holding meetings in certain communities and will continue through the coming months, including one scheduled Thursday at a small community in Hazle Township.
These and similar public forums across the nation are intended to inform residents and gather input related to the postal service's plan to become more fiscally stable.
The process, called The Post Plan, aims to make sure customers play a role in the fate of their post offices, said USPS spokesman Ray Daiutolo. Surveys and letters will be sent to customers, he said. The USPS then will send a representative to each community to answer questions and discuss options.
The Post Plan process takes approximately 54 days from start to finish, said Daiutolo. This includes mailing the surveys and letters, holding the community meetings, evaluating survey information and posting the results. This process will repeat itself every week for two years until all of the nearly 13,000 communities have been evaluated and the program is finalized in the fall of 2014.
Donna Krull, of Wapwallopen, filled out her survey last month soon after receiving it. She did not go to the public meeting held last Thursday at the Slocum Township Fire Co., but said she checked the reduced hours option in her mailed survey.
She understands the need to scale back and save money, she said, and she doesn't believe reduced window hours or even ending Saturday delivery would be too bitter of a pill to swallow. But I would really hate to see them do away with that post office, Krull said. The closest post offices would be about 10 miles away in Berwick or Conyngham. For senior citizens, or those who don't drive, that would be a hardship, she said.
In addition to Wapwallopen, meetings were held last week in Sugarloaf and Sweet Valley. On Tuesday there was a meeting regarding the Weston Post Office, which serves 132 customers in Black Creek Township.
On Thursday, a meeting regarding the Ebervale Post Office is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. at the Hazle Township Municipal Building. That post office serves 91 customers.
More than a dozen rural post offices in Luzerne County, where hours were slated to be reduced, in lieu of closure last year, are among about 13,000 offices nationwide facing the same questions.
The meetings and the surveys sent out are supposed to give residents a chance to choose which of four options they'd prefer, including reduced hours. Other options involve closing the post office but with other factors at play:
• Opt for rural delivery with mail being collected at another nearby post office.
• Choose post office boxes at another post office where you can still pick up your mail and not have it delivered.
• Agree to establish a Village Post Office, which provides the sale of stamps and usually operates out of a third-party retail outlet such as a convenience store or grocery store.
When the USPS first issued a plan to close nearly 4,000 rural post offices in July 2011, public opposition was immense. So instead of the automatic closure plan, the USPS announced its Post Plan last May, aiming to keep smaller, rural post offices open by reducing daily retail window hours at each – but approving closure if public support is there.
It's good that they've given us the option, Krull said, noting she hopes her neighbors who filled in their surveys voted like her.
About 20 rural Luzerne County post offices have seen or are slated to see reductions to operating times as a money-saving measure.
Here's a look at the affected post offices and the proposed total daily operating hours:
Sweet Valley: 6
Glen Lyon: 4
Huntington Mills: 4
Lattimer Mines: 4
Rock Glen: 4
Saint Johns: 4
Beach Haven: 2