Post offices in area to have their hours reduced

LODA — Community meetings will be held in upcoming weeks in Loda, Elliott and Ludlow to discuss a plan to reduce the post offices’ hours in those towns.

Residents were sent letters earlier this month stating that unless 60 percent or more wish to have their post office closed, the U.S. Postal Service plans to keep the offices open but reduce the hours.

The proposal is basically a compromise to a previously proposed cost-cutting plan that would have led to the closure of thousands of rural post offices nationwide, said Tammy Lemley, postmaster for the Paxton post office.

Under the postal service’s plan, the post offices in Loda and Ludlow will have their hours reduced from eight to four hours per day, while Elliott’s will be reduced from eight to two, Lemley said.

Lemley said the postal service has set community meetings to discuss the plan with the public at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, at the post office in Elliott; 6 p.m. Oct. 18 at the post office in Ludlow; and 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8, at the post office in Loda.

Other area communities that are expected to have their post office hours reduced but have not been sent letters yet include Buckley and Rankin, Lemley said. According to the postal service, both Buckley’s hours and Rankin's will be reduced from eight to six.

The postal service also has indicated plans to reduce the hours of the post offices in Piper City, Crescent City, Gifford, Potomac and Thomasboro (from eight to six); Danforth, Dewey, Iroquois, Melvin, Penfield, Roberts, Royal, Saybrook, Sibley, Thawville and Wellington (from eight to four) and Armstrong and Foosland (from eight to two).

The letters sent to residents in Loda, Ludlow and Elliott state that the reduced-hours plan, referred to as “Post Plan,” will be in effect within two years, Lemley said. It affects post offices that are rated “16” or below based on their “walk-in revenue,” Lemley said.

Because the Paxton post office is rated 18, it will not have its hours reduced, Lemley said.

The only difference that will be seen at the Paxton office is that its postmaster will be in charge of the Loda, Ludlow and Rankin’s post offices, whose postmasters will not be retained.

Lemley explained that the “two- and four-hour offices are going to be called Remote Manage Post Offices (RMPO), meaning that ultimately there will not be a postmaster in any of them.”

The postmasters at each proposed RMPO were offered incentives to retire by July 31. Lemley said that more than half of postmasters are eligible for retirement.

A final decision on reducing the hours of each post office will not be made until after community meetings are held, Lemley said.

In July 2011, the Postal Service proposed closing about 3,700 post offices. It was part of a multibillion-dollar cost-cutting effort to stave off the agency’s bankruptcy.

The new strategy would reduce hours at about 13,000 post offices, including many not originally on the closure list. The postal service figures it could save a half-billion dollars a year.

The reduced-hours plan does not affect post offices or postal stations in larger cities, said Postal Service spokeswoman Valerie Welsch. As a result, places such as Champaign-Urbana, Danville and Rantoul are not affected by the plan.

Under the plan, retail window hours would be modified but access to the retail lobby and to post office boxes would remain unchanged.

Lemley said that in lieu of reduced hours, a community could express preferences for other alternatives, including:

— Mail delivery service by rural carrier or highway contract route.

— Contracting with a business to create a “village post office” selling select postal products and services and sometimes offering post office boxes.

— Getting service from another nearby post office.

Residents were asked to choose a preference in letters sent to them this month through the postal service’s Central Illinois District office in Bedford Park, Lemley said.

Survey research done for the post office indicates the public prefers reduced hours to the other alternatives.

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