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Wed., Jul. 23
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Chase Mills’ post office to see its hours cut

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CHASE MILLS - Under a plan put together by the U.S. Postal Service, the post office here will likely see its retail hours cut from eight hours a day down to four, a move that may occur sometime this spring.

“As you know the postal service is having some financial difficulties,” said Diane M. LaBarge, who serves as postmaster in Hermon and was running an informational meeting held at the post office on behalf of Northern Tier Post Officer Operations Manager Jeffrey Sands, who could not be in attendance due to a meeting he had to attend in Albany.

Ms. LaBarge explained the postal service is losing $25 million per day, thanks in large part to the internet.

“People are paying their bills on-line, you can send e-greetings, you can just say happy birthday to someone on Facebook and companies are making their bills available online, so they’re not even mailing out bills,” Ms. LaBarge said.

According to a report distributed by Ms. LaBarge at the meeting, the number of retail visits has also declined dropping from 1.28 billion per year to .93 billion in just the past six years.

Brian McCormick, who attended the meeting with his wife, Valarie, said in addition to the inconvenience of reduced hours, he’s afraid of the impact the lower salaries of postal employees will have on the region’s economy.

“Every dollar you take away from someone is like taking seven out of the economy,” he said. “And right now we can’t afford that.”

Ms. LaBarge said she understands the community’s concerns, but given that 80 percent of the postal service’s expenses are salaries that is an area that has to be cut in order to make any kind of impact.

“Anything that can be done to save salaries and jobs needs to be done,” Mr. McCormick countered. “If you want to cut the hours in New York City, that’s fine, but leave us alone up here.”

Tim Mills, who serves as the postmaster in Clayton, noted the hour reductions aren’t just impacting offices in Northern New York.

“This is going on nationwide,” Mr. Mills said. The U.S. Postal Service’s website says there are 13,000 post offices across the nation slated for reductions in hours.

A survey was mailed to 310 Chase Mills area residents late last fall; 109 were returned with 98 respondents selecting a realignment of hours as their preferred option. Four people selected eliminating the post office and having mailed delivered to everyone’s homes, and two people selected moving the post office operations to another nearby facility.

“That’s actually an excellent return,” Ms. LaBarge said. “Anything over 10 percent is pretty good.”

Given the community’s preference and the postal services needs, Ms. LaBarge said Chase Mills will likely see new retail hours of 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

“Has anyone checked to see how much activity occurs here late in the afternoon?” Mr. McCormick asked. “Being able to get here may be an issue for some of us.”

Linda Tredo suggested possibly staggering the hours, so there are also afternoon hours available during the week.

“That wouldn’t be feasible,” Ms. LaBarge said, explaining there have to be employees at the post office in the morning to sort the mail and prepare mail for rural route deliveries.

Ms. LaBarge also said the postal service is taking steps to minimize the inconvenience.

While the retail portion of the office would only be open until noon, she said they’re planning to install doors with a panic bar that would operate with a timed lock that would automatically lock and unlock each day, possibly even allowing for an expansion of lobby hours to 6 or 7 p.m.

“That would be great,” Mrs. McCormick said.

Ms. LaBarge also added that parcel lockers could be installed, allowing people to receive packages, even if they’re unable to visit during retail hours.

She explained patrons would find a key in their box that would then open a locker with their package inside.

Ms. LaBarge also said order sheets for stamps would be left in the lobby, allowing people to purchase stamps even if the retail side is closed.

She explained someone would place their order and check inside a drop box and when they returned the next day, their stamps would be in their PO box.

When asked for a timetable of when the move would be implemented, Ms. LaBarge replied, “The soonest it could happen would be 60 days, but it will be longer than that.”

Ms. LaBarge then estimated the switch would likely occur sometime in April or May.

The office currently has retail hours of 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Under the postal service’s proposal, those hours would be reduced to 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday, with Saturday hours remaining the same. The office’s current lobby hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday. While the postal service said lobby hours may end up extended, no specific details on potential lobby hours were given at the meeting.

Louisville Town Supervisor Larry R. Legault said he’s pleased to see the postal service has done their homework to help ease the burden for the residents of Chase Mills.

“Based on the survey, I think what they’re offering would allow the retail side of the post office to be locked and still give people the opportunity to pick up and drop off mail,” he said. “I would like to thank the post office for looking at all the ways to minimize the inconvenience for the people who use this post office.”

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