By CRAIG FREILICH
At least two post offices in St. Lawrence County have reduced the hours their service windows are open, and cuts are planned or up for review at more than 20 others.
Hours have been cut at the Hannawa Falls and Brasher Falls post offices from eight to six. The smaller post offices are run by a single postmaster, so their lunch “hours” have been extended so the offices open around 8 a.m. and to close them around 5 p.m.
Other St. Lawrence County post offices where cuts in hours have been approved and comment meetings are pending include DePeyster, Hailesboro, Lisbon, Parishville, Richville, Russell, South Colton and West Stockholm.
Post offices in the county where reviews have already taken place but so far the process has gone no farther include Brier Hill, Chippewa Bay, Fine, Hammond, Helena, Hermon, Madrid, Morristown, Newton Falls, Pyrites, Star Lake and Wanakena.
“We were the first in the area that I know of,” said Hannawa Falls Postmaster Cindy Clement, whose daily hours were cut as of Jan. 9. The office is closed for a two-and-half-hour “lunch,” when the lobby is open for access to mailboxes and drop slots but the service window is not. The window is open from 8:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., and again from 2:45 to 4:45 p.m. The lobby is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
As of Feb. 9, at the Brasher Falls Post Office window hours were changed to 8:15 a.m. to noon and 2:30 to 4:45 p.m.
More than a third of all 31,000 United States Postal Service post offices across the country have been or will be reviewed as the United States Postal Service struggles to find ways to make the operation more efficient and less costly.
The process involves a review of post office workload by USPS authorities, and customer “outreach” including a public hearing, according to Maureen Marion, the USPS regional manager of corporate communications.
A hearing in DeKalb Junction is set for noon Wednesday, March 20 on the plan to cut the hours there from eight to four a day.
Bonnie Matthews, Officer in Charge at the DeKalb Junction Post Office, says she’s concerned about what will happen on Saturdays, when people who work all week depend on the post office being open long enough to get done what they have to.
The ceasing of Saturday deliveries is scheduled to go into effect nationwide the week of Aug. 5 in an attempt to offset declining USPS revenues due to increasing use of e-mail and online bill paying.
“I think the window hours Saturday will only be two hours,” Matthews said, wondering if that will be enough. “I want to see if I can do four hours on Saturday,” she said.
The new shorter schedule at DeKalb is not yet officially set. The March 20 information meeting for patrons will be led by regional USPS chief Jeff Sands in the lobby of the post office on U.S. Rt. 11.
Spokeswoman Marion says that many hour changes have already been approved but are awaiting implementation for a variety of reasons.
“Some post offices have had their comment meetings and everyone has been notified but they have not made the change yet,” Marion said.
“Some will have to change doors and locks or have other outstanding mechanical issues. That’s the case with most post offices that have pending changes.
“Hurricane Sandy also has had an effect. A lot of supplies and maintenance equipment went downstate to help out there.”
Marion said the cuts come out of the workload determined at each post office during the reviews, and other factors.
“We will be working on this process through September 2014 nationwide,” Marion said, so all those meetings will be held and changes implemented by then.
The end of Saturday deliveries announced by the post office begins the week of Aug. 4. What that means, Marion said, is that city and rural deliveries to residential and business addresses will no longer be done on Saturdays. But those who have post office boxes will be able to pick up their mail on Saturdays.
The other exception is packages, which will be delivered on Saturdays, the better to compete with USPS rivals like UPS and FedEx.
Hannawa Postmaster Clement says there are good reasons to visit the smaller post offices on the hour-reduction list, not the least of which is to help sustain them.
“And lines are shorter, so there’s less wait time and friendly service,” she said.
She was not concerned about any business her idea would take from larger post offices, such as those in Potsdam and Canton.
“They’re not going anywhere,” she said.