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EDITORIAL: Rural post offices may not survive

2013-02-05T23:46:00Z 2013-02-06T16:55:10Z EDITORIAL: Rural post offices may not survive Glens Falls Post-Star
February 05, 2013 11:46 pm

Politicians like U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, a Democrat who now represents the Glens Falls area, have to balance the wider public interest with the narrow interests of their constituents.

It’s in the public interest, for example, to eliminate federal subsidies to the U.S. Postal Service and allow it to run as the standalone business it is supposed to be.

But it is in the interests of his constituents in rural towns, such as Hartford, for Mr. Owens to advocate for the preservation of small post offices, even if they operate at losses.

Do away with post offices in places like Hartford and you take away another shred of their dwindling identity as unique communities and force their residents to do even more driving.

But we have to set limits on the subsidizing of rural identity with post offices and schools and other services paid for by a wider population.

It’s unfair to expect the nation’s taxpayers to cover the cost of a post office for a handful of customers in tiny communities in Washington County or the Adirondacks, when the services could be consolidated at substantial savings.

A compromise last year spared several rural post offices in the area from elimination while targeting them for cutbacks in hours. This was trumpeted as a fair compromise by the Postal Service, and it appears to be one, although Hartford Supervisor Dana Haff is now unhappy about the way it’s being implemented.

The Postal Service is planning to open the Hartford post office only in the mornings, but Haff wants it open afternoons and evenings, to make it easier for people with jobs to stop in after work.

The problem with Mr. Haff’s argument is the Hartford office is now open from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday. We don’t see how it’s any easier for someone with an 8-to-4 or a 9-to-5 job to get to the post office in the afternoon than in the morning.

The Hartford Town Board has asked for the office to be open from 2 to 6 p.m. daily and 8 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday. If Hartford or any other rural community wants the Postal Service to take the extraordinary step of opening outside normal business hours, then the communities have to be willing to compromise on their ends. What if, for example, the Hartford post office were open from 4 to 6 p.m. daily and Saturday mornings?

What if the Postal Service opened certain rural offices just Saturdays, and sent customers to regional post offices during the week?

We’re not against evening or weekend hours, if they work for the Postal Service financially. We are against money-losing accommodations being made for particular communities that have to be subsidized by the broader base of Postal Service customers or by all U.S. taxpayers.

Even large, busy post offices in this area, such as the one in Glens Falls, are not open in the evenings, yet people manage to get there to conduct their business.

Mr. Owens, to his credit, was recently named to the House Appropriations Committee, which puts him close to many of Congress’ spending decisions. We urge him to use his newfound power to make decisions responsive to all the taxpayers in his district, which will sometimes require saying no to select constituencies that appeal to him for help.

Keeping small rural post offices open is good for a few thousand people, while raising costs for hundreds of thousands. Besides, post offices are no longer the community gathering places they once were, because far fewer people send letters now.

Wireless, digital communication has largely replaced written communication by mail. Stamps can be purchased via the Internet, and so can mailing labels for packages. Living miles from the nearest post office has become less of an inconvenience as postal services have become more available online.

Something wonderful has been lost with the dying out of the letter-writing tradition and the fading away of post offices as public squares. But we can’t afford to cling to a tradition few are following. The Postal Service, like everything else, has to change with the times.

Local editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rick Emanuel, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representative Robert Sledd.

Copyright 2015 Glens Falls Post-Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(13) Comments

  1. someone in glens falls
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    someone in glens falls - February 07, 2013 8:21 pm
    Once again. I agree.
  2. someone in glens falls
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    someone in glens falls - February 07, 2013 8:20 pm
    I agree brian. 100%
  3. loneoak
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    loneoak - February 06, 2013 4:23 pm
    If can not support itself then it has to go, trust me a private entity will take its place. Tough choices and those are the only way to get the debt under control.
  4. brian
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    brian - February 06, 2013 12:44 pm
    Though in fact, the USPS WOULD be self-sufficient, or pretty close, if not for a Republican-imposed mandate that their pension obligations be pre-funded decades in advance for postal employees who aren’t even born yet! This is in order to cripple the USPS and thus provide a pretext for the privatization they want.
  5. brian
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    brian - February 06, 2013 12:44 pm
    Out of curiosity, can the Post-Star editorial board state where it is decreed that the USPS must be self-sufficient, as the second paragraph implies? How come the paper is not insisting that the military be self-sufficient?
  6. balsamfir
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    balsamfir - February 06, 2013 11:39 am
    Simply not funding the postal service is not entirely the cause of it's difficulties. The federal mandate about pension funding was the breaking point for them. And despite your hectoring tone regarding rural post offices and subsidies, we have few options and we do pay taxes, many of which go to support other federal programs we don't support for various reasons. UPS does not deliver letters. Many older residents of rural communities are not email users and access to email costs money and time, providing yet another unfunded burden on small rural communities. I would be happy personally with a 4-6 pm and Saturday delivery service, located where possible in a local store, which would help support the business as well as the community, but that isn't an option everywhere.
  7. DanaHaff
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    DanaHaff - February 06, 2013 11:31 am
    This editorial conveniently over looks a couple of facts; 1) The Town Board recognizes that sometimes you have to downsize in order to survive. The Board supports reducing the hours of retail operation to four hours per day as long as they are hours not designed to kill retail sales and further promote closure in the future. The proposed hours of 8am-12 noon will kill sales. 2) The largest employer in town is the Hartford Central School which gets out at 2:30pm. The staff of the school and the majority of people that have day jobs outside of the town cannot avail themselves to the hours of 8am -12noon. This is is why the Town is promoting retail hours of 2pm-6pm. If the USPS wants to run like a business, then they need to look beyond what hours are convenient for the employees and instead should focus on how to capture a larger retail market and revenue. Excluding your retail base does not make business sense.
  8. grannybunny
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    grannybunny - February 06, 2013 10:43 am
    The Postal Service has not received any kind of subsidies in decades. Privatization is not an option. There is no private entity willing -- or able -- to replace USPS. The Postal Service delivers 170 billion items/year, to more than 150 million addresses, and the number of addresses continues to grow. FedEx and UPS -- combined -- deliver 6 billion items/year to 30 million addresses, combining a substantial (and growing) portion of those to USPS for "the first and last mile." Without the Postal Service, most Americans would have zero access to mail service, much less at an affordable price.
  9. grannybunny
    Report Abuse
    grannybunny - February 06, 2013 10:40 am
    The United States Postal Service has not received taxpayer-funding -- or any kind of subsidy -- for decades. Get your facts straight.
  10. DWC121
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    DWC121 - February 06, 2013 10:34 am
    At least 90-95 percent of the mail in 128xx is already sorted by the time it reaches the local Post Office.
  11. loneoak
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    loneoak - February 06, 2013 8:27 am
    If they can not run without susides then they have to go. Either eliminate them or turn them over to the private sector. You have to make decisions when you talk about "the good ole days" and realize, until you get a grip on spending and entitlements those days are gone forever, only to be remembered on the Andy Griffith Show.
  12. theMaven
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    theMaven - February 06, 2013 8:02 am
    Who decided that a failing postal system was responsible for the social calendar of anyone? What hooey! How about they just deliver the mail, honestly and with a little efficiency?

    If they wanted to bring the PO back, start with the basic's, the people. Some great ones, some who think the world owes them a living, and that customers are just an annoyance.

    The real problem, is that we have a pack of clueless morons in charge. Like the new rates. How about an honest rate, for an honest job? No, we need 3 pages of rates and extras. One package, should we do first class preferred, or unpreferred, or priority, medium fixed rate package, the long one ot the skinny one or just a box, many times they are less expensive, the fixed rate ones are pablum for the mathematically challenged; maybe the small fixed rate, there are only 6 of them or zone a or zone b, do they default to fixed, or do you have to ask,
    should we buy the insurance, reward the post office for Visigoth service,or.......?
  13. LGeo
    Report Abuse
    LGeo - February 06, 2013 7:17 am
    The Post Star is writing another editorial without understanding the facts. The PO won't open in the afternoons because there is some silly union rule that the delivery people who are not PO employees can't sort the mail without having a PO employee in the PO.

    Why can't they sort the mail elsewhere or allow the rural delivery contractor access without a PO employee present. If the delivery person can't be trusted in the PO, I don't want him handling my mail.

    The public employee unions have ruined our PO!

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