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Persist in Postal Service for Our Communities
In the last two years, the U.S. Postal Service announced the potential closure of 150 post offices in West Virginia, affecting roughly one in four postal facilities in our region, along with an aggressive schedule to close mail processing and distribution facilities in Huntington, Beckley, and Bluefield.
Communities united in fighting these cuts in mail delivery services, with residents and business owners attending public meetings and voicing their collective opposition. I, too, pressed the Postal Service hard to look for alternative ways to address its fiscal problems without cutting off mail delivery services to rural communities.
I made the case that our residents and businesses, especially in areas lacking sufficient Internet access, depend on the Postal Service as the only convenient and realistic option for safely retrieving and sending mail – whether a monthly benefit check, vital prescription medication, or a parcel pickup for a routine business transaction.
West Virginians know better than most that our post offices are neighborhood gatherings spots and can be the heart of communities, giving a small town its own distinctive identity.
The Postal Service listened to these concerns, and responded by temporarily suspending most of its discontinuance studies. However, in May of this year, it put forward a new proposal, known as the Post Office Structure (POSt) Plan. While the POStPlan averts the closure of many southern West Virginia post offices, it also proposes to reduce window hour services, in some cases to two hours a day, which is obviously an issue of tremendous concern for many West Virginians, including myself.
I share the widespread frustration that the Postal Service is intent upon achieving cost savings through service reductions at rural postal facilities. I continue to fight these efforts and have communicated my concern repeatedly to both the Postal Service and the Postal Regulatory Commission. In addition, I am a cosponsor of H.R. 1351, the U.S. Postal Service Pension Obligation Recalculation and Restoration Act, which would help to restore the Postal Service’s financial standing without jeopardizing six-day mail delivery service or requiring mass layoffs and facility closures.
For each post office impacted by the POStPlan, I am informed by Postal officials that the Postal Service intends to seek public input by mailing surveys to postal customers and hosting a public meeting. The Postal Service wants to know what hours of operation a community prefers and whether alternatives including roadside delivery, the opening of a contractor-operated facility, or post office box service at a neighboring post office may be preferred.
Affected residents and businesses can expect to be notified of the date, time, and location of a community meeting, at which the survey results will be discussed. Final decisions about the future of the post office will be posted in the post office lobby no sooner than seven days after the community meeting.
A listing of the public meetings scheduled thus far can be found on my website, rahall.house.gov, or at http://about.usps.com/news/electronic-press-kits/our-future-network/post-plan.htm.
I strongly encourage all those who are concerned about the future operation of their local post office to participate in the public process. I urge residents and businesses to inform themselves about how it will impact them, and allow their voices to be heard.
In the meantime, I will continue to press the Postal Service, as well as Congress, to take steps to address the Postal Service's long-term fiscal solvency while ensuring reliable and effective mail delivery services in rural communities.
U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) represents West Virginia’s 3rd District
For more information contact: Diane Luensmann (202) 225-3452