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Hundreds of post offices may close

Losses of $7b laid to steep drop in volume of mail

Associated Press / August 4, 2009

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WASHINGTON - Facing staggering financial losses, the Postal Service is looking at closing nearly 1,000 offices across the country.

The post office has been struggling with a sharp decline in mail volume as people and businesses switch to e-mail both for personal contact and bill paying. The agency is facing a nearly $7 billion potential loss this fiscal year despite a 2-cent increase in the price of stamps in May, cuts in staff, and removal of collection boxes.

Postal officials sent a list of nearly 700 potential closing candidates to the independent Postal Regulatory Commission for review, and more may be added.

Seven post offices in Boston - including those at Logan Airport and Faneuil Hall - one in Cambridge, and another in New Bedford are on the list. Several college post offices are also listed.

Postal vice president Jordan Small told a congressional subcommittee that local managers will study activities of approximately 3,200 stations and branches across the country considering factors such as customer access, service standards, cost savings, impact on employees, environmental impact, real estate values and long-term Postal Service needs. No changes are expected before the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30.

There are 32,741 post offices across the county. Of those, the service launched a review of 3,200 for potential candidates for closing.

“We anticipate that out of these 3,200 stations and branches, under 1,000 offices could be considered as viable candidates to study further’’ for closing, Small said.

Just last week the General Accountability Office added the Postal Service to its list of troubled agencies, saying there are serious and significant structural financial challenges currently facing the agency.

“Every major postal policy, from employee pay, to days of delivery, to the closing of postal facilities must be on the table. Without major change, the day will soon come when the Postal Service will be unable to pay its bills,’’ GAO said.

Congress is considering a bill to change the way the post office funds its retiree health benefits over the next two years that could save it $2 billion annually.

Last year, mail volume fell by 9.5 billion pieces to a total of 203 billion pieces. It is expected to fall by 28 billion pieces this year to a total of 175 billion pieces.